The term industry 4.0 refers to a further developmental stage in the organization and management of the entire value chain process involved in manufacturing industry. Another term for this process is the ’fourth industrial revolution’.
The concept of industry 4.0 is widely used across Europe, particularly in Germany’s manufacturing sector. In the United States and the English-speaking world more generally, some commentators also use the terms the ’internet of things’, the ’internet of everything’ or the ’industrial internet’.
What all these terms and concepts have in common is the recognition that traditional manufacturing and production methods are in the throes of a digital transformation. For some time now, industrial processes have increasingly embraced modern information technology (IT), but the most recent trends go beyond simply the automation of production that has, since the early 1970s, been driven by developments in electronics and IT.
The vertical networking of industry 4.0 requires new IT solutions. In many cases existing IT infrastructures are very fragmented and result in poor networking.
New, combined solutions need to be developed from a range of components from suppliers of sensors, modules, control systems, communications networks, business applications and customer-facing applications.
Companies making the right choice of these components and adapting and integrating them into a new over-arching solution will secure long-term market advantage.
Analytics and data management
Industry 4.0 will generate enormous quantities of data. Gathering, analyzing and processing such big data will generate new insights, support decision-making and create a competitive advantage.
Companies need to develop new specialist skills in the areas of analytics and efficient data management and put new business processes in place on the basis of the insights that this analysis reveals.
Companies who set themselves apart from their competitors in this respect will overtake existing sector leaders.
The simple networking of cloud-based solutions offers excellent opportunities to host and make efficient use of the big data generated by industry 4.0. Cloud-based solutions will become increasingly crucial to industry 4.0.
There are particular advantages for decentrally networked smart-production systems, where previously unimaginable computing power will enable cloud-based applications to deliver universal, anytime access to all key data. This makes it simpler to gather, monitor, distribute and analyze data not only between factories but also across the entire global value chain network.
This forms the basis for providing over-arching market solutions that seamlessly integrate all stages from suppliers’ value chains to end customers and allows innovation beyond products.
“Operational efficiency 2.0”
The digital transformation to industry 4.0 also offers new opportunities to drive forward operational efficiency.
The effective analysis, assessment and application of the data collected from machines and sensors enable rapid decision-making to improve operational safety, work processes, servicing and maintenance.
Transparency not only makes development and production processes more efficient but also offers substantial operational cost reductions for customers, because maintenance work is carried out in a needs-oriented manner (e.g. only a short while before a risk develops). This creates long-term competitive advantages in both reliability and price.