Industry 4.0 – it’s a term that’s been around for over a decade now. No really, it’s been that long. Like most hot topics in tech, it’s a term that’s mired in hype, heightened expectations, and an underlying threat of being taken over by robots (a la Terminator).
But behind the buzz, there’s a powerful digital transformation undercurrent that is legitimately modernizing even older technology like SCADA for the 21st century. It’s exciting, overwhelming and even a bit scary, but it will prove to be a critical component in the ever continuing drive towards manufacturing optimization and improvement.
And it’s happening today.
So what is Industry 4.0, and more importantly, what can your company expect to get from it today, tomorrow, and over the next decade?
In this comprehensive guide, we look at all aspects of Industry 4.0 to understand how this wave of innovation can be harnessed for good.
Two trends serve as the driving force behind Industry 4.0: rapid proliferation of cheaper and cheaper sensors, and the relentless increase in computing power.
The first of these trends, cheaper sensors is leading an increase in the amount of data that can be collected from a plant, machine, vehicle or any other real-world equipment. Interestingly enough, the trend towards smaller and cheaper sensors is driven by the success of another industry – smartphone manufacturing. These devices have been compared to pocket supercomputers, but they are so much more. With over a dozen sensors including magnetoscopes, GPS, gyroscopes, accelerometers, barometers, proximity, ambient light, fingerprint sensors and the like, these devices are more akin to mobile labs than mobile computers. It’s the scale of production with billions of phones per year that drives innovation and builds out supply chains for these sensors, some of which can be shifted towards other applications like industrial measurement. Furthermore, these sensors are designed to produce real-time streams of data 24/7, which when stored raises the tantalizing opportunity to work with millions of hours of production data.
Computing power, the engine that processes all this data has been growing at an exponential rate for the past 50 years. This phenomenon, first observed by Intel founder Gordon Moore and so named Moore’s law, states that processing power and/or capacity will double approximately every 18 months.
To say that this relentless growth has been transformational would be a ridiculous understatement (https://twitter.com/kenshirriff/status/1450164674494750743?lang=en).
For Industry 4.0, this continuous growth in computing power provides the horsepower to process the ever-increasing steam of data from every plant, machine, and sensor.
The convergence of these two trends – sensors and computing – ultimately result in a more accurate and comprehensive digital model of physical machines, equipment and processes.
And once something is digital, it can be copied, replayed, simulated, optimized, and so on. Mathematic-oriented disciplines like computer science and sub-categories like data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence provide techniques that can manipulate, identify patterns and make predictions on any stream of data independently of what that data represents. Algorithms developed for social media processing are equally useful for complex factory environments.
Industry 4.0 will digitize everything.
Data governance is where your company gets to set it policies related to
how data is collected. It is tightly integrated with data strategy in that
it is the implementation of the rules defined in the former.
A solid data governance policy will not only look to identify which sources to consolidate, but it will define who will be able to access data, when the data is pulled, and what do to when conflicts might occur. The governance policy also defines other issues such as retention policies and how to integrate new sources of data as they come online.