According to GlobalData, a data and analytics company, the fourth industrial revolution – industry 4.0 – promises to transform traditional manufacturing by marrying operational technology with information technology.
Industry 4.0 is simply the next
phase in the digital transformation of manufacturing through the use of data
exchange techniques, advanced technologies and flexible automation for
increased efficiency. It principally aims at enhanced human-machine interaction
to drive interconnectivity, information transparency and autonomous decision
As the shift to industry 4.0 takes
hold, GlobalData’s Disruptive Tech Analyst, Kiran Raj, warns that manufacturers
who are too slow to adopt advanced technologies and mindsets risk falling
behind competitors who are able to deliver “higher quality products at lower
According to GlobalData, Industry
4.0 initiatives can be largely distilled down to the adoption of several core
technologies, which, if embraced, build what Raj describes as a “Cyber-physical
In an analysis of its Disruptor
Tech Database, the intelligence company identified five fundamental
technologies in transforming the industrial manufacturing to be: big data and
analytics (BDA), industrial internet of things (IIoT), cloud computing,
additive manufacturing (3D printing) and augmented reality (AR).
The company also recognised additional technologies included, advanced robotics, digital twinning, simulation, cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
On BDA, GlobalData, says the
technology plays a ‘remarkable role’ in the manufacturing environment.
Analysing huge volumes of data coming from
management systems and sensors fitted to the production equipment allows human
workers to distance themselves from machines and tiring and dangerous tasks,
thereby increasing efficiency as well as safety.
Mining giant Rio Tinto, for
example, by leveraging BDA was able to avoid the unexpected break down of its
production vehicles estimated to cost up to US$2m.
Its autonomous haulage
system (AHS) has close to 200 sensors producing more than 4TB of valuable
vehicle data per day, including exact location, speed and other real-time
metrics, across the fleet of 900.
Meanwhile, when it comes to
3D printing, the technology has opened ‘phenomenal’ production opportunities
such as product prototyping and mass production of custom tooling.
GlobalData also noted that German
carmaker, Volkswagen, became the first manufacturer ready to use the latest 3D
printing technology for mass production in the automotive industry. The
technology named HP Metal Jet has been tested to increase productivity up to 50
times compared to the existing 3D printing methods based on the component.
“Industry 4.0 can empower building what many
refer to as ‘smart factory’ for a truly productive environment with benefits to
manufacturers as well as consumers such as enhanced communication, real-time
monitoring, advanced data analysis and self-diagnosis,” Raj continues.
The concept of a smart
factory is flexibly automated and self-monitoring explains GlobalData. A smart
factory enables machines, materials and humans communicate with each other,
sparing workers for other productive tasks; ultimately optimising the design
and production processes for elevated operational efficiency.
Though the benefits are
clear, GobalData warns that beneath the layers, there are critical challenges
for manufacturers such as data management, upskilling employees and cyber
incidents. Fortunately, there are steps and preventive measures without
“While incumbents, such as Bosch, GE and
Siemens, have been muscling to capture a sizeable share of Industry 4.0, many
manufacturers are yet to consider serious investments. Given the benefits over
threats, a wait and watch stance may risk their competitive position in the
future of manufacturing,” concludes Raj.