If you haven’t heard of industry 4.0 yet, it’s time to get up to speed.
Industry 4.0 is a term for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, encompassing cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. Industry 4.0 is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution – representing a rapid and major change in the economy which could render any organisations which are unwilling or unable to adapt obsolete.
There’s no getting away from it, a complete transformation of the way we work is not coming – it is here. The most forward-thinking organisations in every sector are either already utilising the technological advances on offer or planning how they can take advantage of Industry 4.0’s focus on reliable, optimised processes; streamlined, simplified and providing multiple economic benefits. Here are just a few sector-specific examples:
Several warehouses have now introduced some elements of Industry 4.0 to their operations. The assistance of smart machinery in terms of the safe and secure movement and storage of goods in the warehouse environment is proving invaluable, protecting the product, profits and the workers themselves.
With the introduction of automated systems the risk of injury arising from repetitive movements or human error can be significantly reduced. As just one example, forklift drivers often suffer from pain in their neck and shoulders from continually looking up to work on high rack systems. Fork Lift trucks are also among the most dangerous forms of workplace transport in the UK, seriously injuring over 1,000 people every year (2017 figures). Accidents most frequently involve pedestrian colleagues and arise due to operator error.
If we correctly automate the vehicles that perform these tasks, we can prevent these issues arising altogether. Instead of operating one machine and experiencing all the physical stresses and strains this involves, drivers will upskill and move into new roles, overseeing a fleet of automated trucks which will complete the tasks far more efficiently, and with their inbuilt sophisticated safety systems, at less risk to colleagues.
Ocado is one company which is embracing Industry 4.0 to the fullest extent. Having introduced a revolutionary new robotic system for picking and packing, reducing times taken to prepare a delivery from around two hours to five minutes, the company is currently building new warehouses specifically designed to house this ‘smart platform’ solution.
Industry 4.0 advancements transform a production line into a responsive, flexible system where humans work alongside robotics to maintain standards, adjust quickly to supply or design changes and platforms can be easily moved around to provide maximum efficiency. Optimised Industry 4.0 production and assembly lines can even communicate with each other to trouble shoot and keep the process moving at the most economical rate possible.
The potential for the technology’s influence on every stage of the process, from an agile supply chain, to monitoring standards and flexible adjustment of production numbers between different linked facilities, is limitless.
Mercedes-Benz is just one car manufacturer publicly introducing Industry 4.0 changes and hailing the benefits in terms of reducing manufacturing costs whilst improving the firm’s ability to quickly complete high quality, more personalised vehicles, something they see as the future of automotive production.
Agriculture is a prime sector to benefit from Industry 4.0’s technology, as an increasing global population places correspondingly increasing pressure on resources. Now more than ever there is a need to harvest and store produce at optimum times and under optimum conditions to minimise loss and wastage. Failure to understand and identify these key points, or a lack of available workers to act on them in an appropriate time frame, can be highly detrimental to the success of a harvest as a whole.
New, intelligent automated processes and innovative products tackle these common issues and many others. Biofresh has introduced just one example. Their smart pallet is designed to help prevent spoilage and reduce food waste. Through clever use of non-harmful ozone the pallet can lengthen the usable storage life of perishable produce to the extent that some could become suitable for transport by sea rather than air.
Traditionally not the swiftest organisations to embrace IT innovations, the logistics industry is increasingly recognising the huge potential benefits that such new applications can offer.
Transport management systems have been extensively overhauled and continue to develop, saving companies that have already introduced them thousands of pounds every year. Autonomous trucks are now being extensively tested in Europe and America, and small robotic delivery vehicles are already operating in parts of London.
These advancements have the potential to resolve many of the sector’s biggest issues, from staffing availability to the increasing demand for ever more rapid delivery times. Not every section of operations has to change at once. If the company is sub divided into sections each can be altered one at a time, as was the case with DHL, where staff in one section of the company got a follow along robot cart. This automated assistant supported human colleagues by carrying heavy loads, reducing fatigue and the risk of repetitive strain injury and freeing up their hands, increasing efficiency.
This list is not exhaustive, nor are the examples we have given. Many industries have the potential to benefit from the advancements Industry 4.0 will bring and the smart, tailored solutions which can be developed along these principles. There are many different levels of automation and data technology to explore and multiple variations that may suit your company and your customer base best.
Tharsus is a designer and manufacturer of automated machines and robots. With our expertise placing us at the heart of Industry 4.0 we are the ideal guides to help you make the most of the new opportunities these advances represent. We can help you take advantage of emerging machine technologies that will deliver productivity and efficiency improvements as well as commercial payback today. If you’re still coming to terms with where you might apply these changes, our advisers can help point you in the right direction. Whatever your ambitions or aims, we can help. Talk to the experts. Talk to us. You can contact us here .
These changes are impacting on your industry now. If you are not operating or preparing to operate the new processes Industry 4.0 offers, be aware that your competitors already are. Don’t be left behind. Get in touch today.