QiSOFT Blog - Happy Birthday Industry 4.0

29 March, 2021

Don’t be scared of Industry 4.0. You’re probably already using it.

Industry 4.0 is a term that’s celebrating its 10th birthday this year. Most people think it’s something that’s only of interest to large, multinational manufacturers.

But the truth is that every business can benefit from an Industry 4.0 implementation. Given that small and medium-sized enterprises account for most companies, why are they reluctant to adopt an I4.0 approach?

What is Industry 4.0?

A dictionary definition is that it’s the fourth industrial revolution. And that’s possibly why many smaller businesses are wary of the term. It sounds like a big thing, particularly when you compare it with the other three industrial revolutions.

What are the four industrial revolutions?

Industry 1.0 was the original industrial revolution from 1765 when coal power allowed processes to become mechanized, and industry overtook agriculture as the primary sector.

Industry 2.0 dates from 1870, when gas, oil and electricity began to replace coal as the primary fuel source. The internal combustion engine provided greater and faster transport options to move materials and products between customers and suppliers. It was also the time when telecommunications arrived to provide communications around the world.

Industry 3.0 arrived in 1969 and was powered by nuclear technology. Computers, electronics and, most notably for industry, programmable logic controllers (PLC) and robotics emerged to allow mass-automation.

The term Industry 4.0 was coined in 2011 and originated from a German project to develop manufacturing digitization. Some argue it’s not a true Industrial Revolution, but whether it is or not, it’s here to stay.

Given the company that I4.0 keeps, it’s understandable that some businesses are reluctant to go down that particular rabbit hole but, when you learn what’s involved, the benefits are impossible to ignore. So, why should you not be scared of Industry 4.0? Well, guess what?

You’re already using it

The core of any I4.0 system is IoT – the Internet of Things (an industrial setting uses IIoT – the Industrial Internet of Things). Again, many people ignore it because they don’t understand the term, but the chances are most people use the IoT in their daily lives.

Do you have a fitness tracker that sends data to your phone? That’s IoT. Have you a Google Home speaker or Amazon Echo connected to your kitchen lights? That’s IoT too. If your dog has a collar that transmits its location to an app on your phone, guess what? You get the idea.

As you can see, in its simplest form, IoT is about devices wirelessly connecting to the internet so they can talk to each other.

The Industrial version is precisely the same in principle. And, again, your manufacturing company is probably already using IIoT in some form or another. Your production machinery may have sensors that transmit condition monitoring data to a maintenance computer. That’s IIoT. Your processes may collect and share quality control data. Again, that’s IIoT in action.

So, if you already have some data collection systems in place, you have the first stage of an Industry 4.0 system. The next step is to ensure those sensors and data collection devices are connected to the internet. An IIoT device can only be considered one if it is connected to the cloud. Also, the communication should be two-way, as the idea of an Industry 4.0 system is to allow decisions to be made and transmitted back to the control devices.

The third and final stage is to have the right software platform to use the data generated by the IIoT devices for decision making. If the data is simply transmitted without any immediate action taken, it’s a wasted opportunity.

For example, our QIS software is designed to give live data analysis so decisions can be made and implemented in real-time by the quality management team.

The whole ethos of an Industry 4.0 system is real-time decision-making. And those decisions can be made on-site or remotely from any location with internet access.

Implementing all of this across every process in a manufacturing plant is a big task. But it’s possible to break it down by machine, then process, then department and build the systems over time. Eventually, these can be linked to customers and suppliers to give a fully streamlined operation.

The benefits of an Industry 4.0 approach can pay for the investment in a relatively short space of time and include:

Productivity Gains
With data being fed to and from the operator in real-time, they can make adjustments to improve their process continually. Similarly, maintenance teams can examine live condition monitoring data to reduce breakdowns and maximize machine uptime.

Reduced Costs
Costs of quality can be slashed with an I4.0 approach. SPC data is continually transmitted to quality teams and adjustments fed back to the machine or process. As such, scrap and defect rates can be drastically reduced.

Customer Satisfaction
Lower prices and increased quality are always going to be critical drivers for customer satisfaction. But an Industry 4.0 (and Industry 5.0) system allows the customer to have an increased role in the customization of their products. Cloud manufacturing gives greater flexibility and agility to produce precisely what is required and when it’s needed.

How do we help with your Industry 4.0 journey?

QIS is made for Industry 4.0. Real-time data delivered directly to decision-makers who can give feedback into the system sets our quality management software apart from others.

Our platform will allow you to manage all your quality processes from one central source as SPC, OEE, Laboratory Management, and Remote Factory Management are core facets of our software.

For more information, contact us here.

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