What is Industry 4.0? Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution and is related to industry, although it is concerned with areas that are not usually classified as industry applications in their own right, such as smart cities.
Cyber-physical systems form the basis of Industry 4.0 (e.g., ‘smart machines’). They use modern control systems, have embedded software systems and dispose of an Internet address to connect and be addressed via IoT (the Internet of Things). This way, products and means of production get networked and can ‘communicate’, enabling new ways of production, value creation, and real-time optimization. Cyber-physical systems create the capabilities needed for smart factories.
Why Industry 4.0? The I4.0 discussion within an enterprise should begin with the business strategy. Where is the company headed? Is top-line growth the priority, and is increased capacity to meet demand the focus for operations? Is the business focused on reducing costs to remain competitive in a market with tightening margins? And what about manufacturing flexibility? How is the company addressing new market pressures, such as the ability to meet customization demands? Understanding these strategic objectives is vital to ensure that subsequent discussions of how to achieve these goals are smart discussions. To achieve these business goals in this digital era, operations leadership (and specifically the manufacturing operations of a company) must identify digitalization projects that align with the business objectives. Examples include reducing risk and addressing compliance requirements, which align with operational projects that address track-and-trace solutions. To do this, secure connectivity of automation systems and the strategic movement of data are critical.