Industry 4.0 is a manufacturing buzzword we hear fairly often. Yet, if you've ever tried to explain what it means to a friend or family member who doesn't work in manufacturing, you probably know how tough it can be to define. That's mainly because this manufacturing buzzword is like a hive full of other manufacturing buzzwords. But we'll do our best to help you break it down for them.
One definition we found comes from Mark Thever, a consultant at Accel Management Group, who explained the concept in an article MD+DI published last year.
"Industry 4.0 is the digitization of manufacturing using advanced technology including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), sensors, robotics, complex cloud infrastructure, and next-generation software systems. At the core of Industry 4.0 are the collection and use of enterprise data from which insights are extracted to improve operational practices," he wrote.
That's a great definition for those well-versed on manufacturing trends. But once again, try giving that definition to your family and friends and see how long it takes to lose them.
Perhaps a simpler way to explain Industry 4.0 is to explain it in terms of industrial revolutions. The first industrial revolution was industry's transition from hand production methods to machines through the use of steam power.
Next came assembly lines and mass production. According to Wikipedia, the second revolution is "the period between 1871 and 1914 that resulted from installations of extensive railroad and telegraph networks, which allowed for faster transfer of people and ideas, as well as electricity."
The third industrial revolution arrived with the introduction of computers and automation to the manufacturing process.
Finally, we have the fourth industrial revolution, more commonly known in the industry as Industry 4.0.
As Thever wrote in his MD+DI article, Industry 4.0 often involves the coexistence of advanced technology, both hardware and software, with human workers. As a manufacturing strategy, the buzzword hive that is Industry 4.0 includes the adoption of other manufacturing buzzwords like 3D printing, smart factories, collaborative robots, artificial intelligence, Big Data and analytics, IIOT, and connectivity. Click on for a breakdown of these and other manufacturing buzzwords.
Also, for an overview of the benefits, challenges, and trends encompassed within Industry 4.0, see Is Industry 4.0 Right for Your Business?