Design News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The Four Industry 4.0 Tipping Points

Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, IIoT, big data, EU Automation, industrial Revolution, connected devices, RFID
These key factors are driving the manufacturing sector to Industry 4.0 adoption.

At the turn of the 20th century, the third industrial revolution was driven by three major tipping points: improvements in agriculture, greater transport possibilities, and an economic boom. Now we’re on the fourth industrial revolution—Industry 4.0. Many businesses are welcoming economic globalization as an opportunity to spread their divisions worldwide and generate a virtual global factory. Among the factors underpinning Industry 4.0's tipping points are the following: connectivity, the smart factory, data, and the customer. They are evolving quickly, thanks to continuous improvements in technological capabilities and the drive of leading professionals to push these improvements beyond what is imagined to be feasible.

Four major tipping points could push Industry 4.0 in the direction of becoming a fully realized concept: connectivity, the smart factory, data, and the customer. (Image source: EU Automation)

Connectivity Keeps Expanding

Economic globalization has also led to the globalization of supply chains, which require effective, accurate tracking methods. The development of RFID tags, which use electromagnetic fields to identify and track products, has been a valuable step toward resolving this.

In addition, improved connectivity allows people to work from home without ceasing communication with colleagues, clients, and customers. This is becoming increasingly popular—partly because it enables workers to reduce childcare and commuting costs. Moreover, a report by ConnectSolutions showed that approximately 30% of those surveyed felt they were more productive when working from home.

The Emergence of the Smart Factory

The term “smart factory” describes the manufacturing sector’s vision for the future. It incorporates exceptional machine intelligence, resulting in the ability to self-optimize and make decisions. Machines will be able to interact and communicate with each other to automate entire manufacturing processes.

In the battle to remain competitive, every manufacturing company is taking steps to bring the smart-factory vision into existence. This is helping to fuel the progress of Industry 4.0.

Data Drives the Advancements

Technology already allows machines to communicate and interact with each other. This enables businesses to run processes more efficiently and frequently. Because of this and other trends, the volume of electronically stored data worldwide is doubling every two years. The majority of this data is being generated by machines rather than people. This has led to the coinage of the term “big data.”

The volume and complexity of this data make it impossible for humans to comprehend it. Therefore, businesses must adopt machines that can collect and analyze data, but also present it in a format that can be understood and used by humans. This interaction is known as interoperability.

Moreover, in the highly competitive environment of the manufacturing sector, businesses must make effective use of this data to further optimize their manufacturing processes. This can be achieved by fitting sensors to machines to continuously monitor their performance. The resultant data can be analyzed to identify times and causes of productivity fluctuations. Practices can be altered accordingly to increase productivity.

Once businesses have mastered the use of big data, they can shift their focus to smart data. This means the data can be analyzed and interpreted so that it gives way to new ideas for products and services.

The End Customer’s Evolving Needs

Customizable products are increasing in popularity. But they are expensive, due to the inability to mass-produce them. 3D printing technology makes mass production possible while offering a feasible way to provide affordable customized products.

Customers are also increasingly turning to online shopping and they expect fast deliveries. A joint study by BigCommerce and Square determined that 51% of Americans prefer to shop online rather than in a physical store, and 86% have made an online purchase.

The use of automated machines and their interaction across the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) means processes can be performed far more quickly and efficiently. This, in turn, helps to meet the growing customer demand. Additionally, improvements in interoperability mean the human workforce can collaborate with the automated equipment to shorten and streamline the product’s journey from manufacturer to customer.

The shift into the fourth industrial revolution is happening as we speak. Before we know it, further socioeconomic and technological changes may tip us toward a fifth industrial revolution. At this rate of technological advancement, however, it seems impossible to imagine what these tipping points might be. 

Jonathan Wilkins is the marketing director of industrial automation components supplier, EU Automation. A professional brand advocate and commercial marketing strategist, Jon focuses on delivering growth via a multi-channel approach that has a significant positive impact on business. He has been part of the EU Automation team since its humble beginning seven years ago and has over a decade of experience in marketing.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) pushes automation to new heights, people will perform fewer and fewer “simple tasks.” Does that mean the demand for highly technical employees will increase as the need for less-technical employees decreases? What will be the immediate and long-term effects on the overall job market? What about our privacy, and is the IoT secure? These are loaded questions, but ones that are asked often. Cees Links, wireless pioneer, entrepreneur, and general manager of the Wireless Connectivity business unit in Qorvo, will address these questions, as well as expectations for IoT’s impact on society, in this ESC Boston 2018 keynote presentation, Thursday, April 19, at 1 pm. Use the Code DESIGNNEWS to save 20% when you register for the two-day conference today!
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.