We are experiencing a new industrial revolution in terms of forms of production. This is due not only to mechanization, but to control and information systems, which are able to handle complex processes and machinery much more efficiently and cost-effectively than humans. These systems are called industrial automation 4.0.
What is it and how does it work?
4.0 Automation technologies, through IIoT (‘Industrial Internet of Things’) connect, control and monitor networks of gadgets, devices, machines, robots and cloud information in real time (via ‘Cloud Monitoring’). This way it allows them to learn, operate and function automatically, minimising human intervention and optimising production.
The role of automation in Industry 4.0
For automated production to unlock its value, it must be implemented as a comprehensive solution that encompasses all of the firm’s processes, making it possible for information to flow through all its parts.
The added value of Industry 4.0 automation no longer focuses solely on its efficiency and profitability, but on an increasing flexibility and substantial improvement of the manufacturing processes’ quality, significantly reducing task margins of error. Digital Twins monitor the process lifecycle, exercising virtual models that serve as the basis for making sound decisions. In processes where the margin of error can reach up to 10% when the work is carried out by a human, a process automation platform could reduce it to up to 0.00001%.
Advantages of automation in Industry 4.0
The main benefits of automation in Industry 4.0 are the following:
- Cost efficiency: Reduces labour costs, automating portions of processes that do not require human judgment to leverage human creativity in obtaining new skills and activities where required. In addition, Virtual and/or Augmented reality technologies facilitate learning processes and improve productive organisation models.
- Competitive advantages: Standardisation and automatic redesign of procedures, making them constant and accurate, being able to operate 24/7. As a result, increased productivity, capacity and process quality, minimising inaccuracies and the cost of downtime.
- Scalability and flexibility: Adding or changing tasks requires training for a human operator, while Robots and devices are reconfigurable and can be accurately programmed in a tight time frame, thus reducing process execution and response time.
- Time reduction: Reduced information processing times. The platforms with which automation works have a large capacity for the storage and management of data derived from processes.
- Utmost safety: The production line can assign machines and/or robots to hazardous tasks that pose a high risk to staff. In addition, advanced comprehensive security controls can be implemented for equipment, components, people, and systems. Cybersecurity is one of the essential technologies to safeguard companies’ privacy.
- Improved control: These types of processes are monitored and recorded, which generates ‘Big Data’; valuable information to identify patterns, improve processes, and implement changes to prevent future events. In addition, process optimisation opens the door to ‘insourcing’. This infrastructure centralisation improves data quality and consistency and leads to analytical improvements.
Automation challenges in Industry 4.0
Although automation 4.0 has a high potential for companies, it is necessary to be aware and assess the challenges posed by this new business model:
- Investment and infrastructure: Adapting the existing infrastructure to the new one can be a big challenge for companies, who will have to invest large sums of money and in many cases get access to financing in order to acquire the necessary infrastructure and decide which solutions will be the most profitable.
- Strategic Plan: The transition not only depends on investment in machinery and hardware, but requires time, a change of mind set, an intelligent analysis and a detailed strategy that maximises implementation and capitalises on the investment.
- Human factor: Smart devices are no longer working tools but have become an intelligent workforce, so millions of jobs are predicted to be lost as a result of automation processes. Society and large enterprises should therefore encourage continuous training for workers to develop relevant digital skills that complement with this new type of industry.
The future of Industry 4.0
Even though most companies globally have not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to immerse themselves in Industry 4.0, the truth is that there is already a more advanced booming trend; Industry 5.0. It focuses on personalisation, immediate customer service and integration between people and ‘cobots’. The intention is to achieve a blending between technological development and human beings, with the main objective of people and machines complementing their activities, instead of people being replaced. In this disruptive approach, to achieve an intelligent society, education needs to change its traditional approach. People must be trained and qualified to be proactive in this new model of society.
If you need to connect your industrial data and processes to increase your business performance, the Nexus Integra IOT platform is your solution.