We could almost say that the expression “industry 4.0” is fashionable, as it has been used in recent years, both within the internal sphere of the sector and by the media. However, many people are still unaware of the principles and realities hidden behind this particular concept, which can sometimes be frightening. This therefore results in this question: what precisely do we mean when we talk about industry 4.0, which embodies the factory of the future?
How to define industry 4.0?
The term was first used in 2011, at the World Industry Forum in Hannover . This is a reference to the first three industrial revolutions : steam engines and mechanical production in the 18th century, the electrical grid and mass production at the dawn of the 19th century, electronics and automated production in the Twentieth century. Some experts also mention the 3.5 revolution, which concerns globalization. The number 4 therefore underlines this transition to a new industrial revolution. Each of these periods has also always been preceded by significant progress in the scientific and technical fields, as well as in those of organization and management. This is how recent advances in computing, information technologies, telecommunications and robotics have paved the way for Industry 4.0.
This could thus be defined as a new generation of intelligent factories . The rise of digital technology has indeed greatly contributed to reducing the barriers between the physical world and the digital universe. This is how we can speak of an interconnected Industry 4.0, in which employees, machines and systems are linked .
Origin of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is the result of a long evolution of production methods, beginning with the first industrial revolution. Here is an overview of each key step:
- First Industrial Revolution: Introduction of steam engines and start of mechanical production in the 18th century.
- Second Industrial Revolution: Development of the electricity grid and mass production at the end of the 19th century.
- Third Industrial Revolution: Advent of electronics and automated production in the 20th century.
- Revolution 3.5: Globalization, marking a transition to an interconnected global economy.
These advances have paved the way for the era of Industry 4.0, characterized by a deep integration of digital technologies into industrial production systems.
The principles and challenges of industry 4.0
This concept of new factory therefore refers to the convergence of digital technologies and industrial production techniques . However, for the industrialist it is not a question of replacing everything within his company. On the contrary, this revolution induces an evolution of existing equipment, which is then improved and integrated into the heart of a network which will allow the sharing of data and information on a large scale.
Industry 4.0 also carries with it this idea of placing humans at the center of its action plan . Everything is done to optimize the ergonomics, value, productivity and safety of each station. The objective is to dematerialize as many phases as possible in the production cycle, so that employees can concentrate more on tasks with high added value. The machines are then connected to the rest of the network. Information is shared transversally throughout the different stages of production, from customer order to shipment of the finished product.
Furthermore, it is no longer possible today to simply produce on an assembly line, at a time when consumers are primarily looking for a personalized product that fully meets their needs. Here lies one of the great challenges of Industry 4.0: that of meeting this requirement for unique products without increasing production costs. It would therefore be a question of successfully connecting the customer factor even more to the production center.
Composition and applications of industry 4.0
New technologies therefore represent valuable support for any industry that would like to move towards this transformation . The possibilities here are extremely numerous: IoT platforms, cloud computing, 3D printing, augmented reality, use of an assistant-operator robot, digital twin, use of smart data technology for predictive maintenance... Each of these components has specific characteristics. very specific for each common application that could be useful for your business. The digitization of commercial documents will thus make it possible to eliminate paper; IoT platforms to control machines in real time using connected sensors; 3D printers to produce prototypes more quickly; a robotic arm to automatically perform a repetitive task, etc. The examples are numerous and it is important to study them carefully.
However, once correctly implemented, they allow both rapid savings in time and money, thanks to simplified processes, a clearer vision and an optimized production chain from A to Z.
What prospects for industry 4.0?
Although this new industrial revolution began a few years ago, it remains far from having revealed all its secrets. The ideal operation of Industry 4.0 in fact indicates as a basis the collection and analysis of data in real time, the conservation of know-how, as well as the security of manufacturing processes. It would now be a matter of encouraging the implementation of intelligent systems capable of self-management and correction, while reassuring employees in their role as specialists . We could then speak of a notion of “smart business”, with increased values of agility and flexibility, always ready to transform and reinvent itself.
Key Steps for Implementing Industry 4.0
Implementing Industry 4.0 requires a structured approach. Here are the main steps to follow to modernize your production:
- Analysis of the current situation to identify areas for improvement.
- Definition of clear objectives aligned with digital capabilities.
- Identification of relevant technologies for your industrial context.
- Implementation planning with specific milestones and deadlines.
- Implementation of selected technologies and integration into existing processes.
- Evaluation of results to measure impact and adjust strategy if necessary.
- Planning the transition to Industry 5.0, considering future innovations.
What Future After Industry 4.0: Perspectives and Future Developments
As Industry 4.0 continues to transform the industrial landscape, Industry 5.0 is already on the horizon. This new era will focus on the personalization of production, the further integration of artificial intelligence and more intuitive and efficient human-machine collaboration.
The principles of Industry 5.0 include autonomous production and supply, with a focus on services, environmental and social issues, and global cyber-physical systemics. Autonomous cognitive agents will play an essential role in managing interactions between customers, products and machines.
Comparison: Industry 4.0 vs Industry 5.0
To fully understand the evolution from industry 4.0 to industry 5.0, it is useful to draw up a comparative table. It highlights the fundamental differences and advances that characterize the transition from the connected industry to an autonomous and intelligent industry.
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