What Is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is the name given to the current phase of industrial revolution. It is the integration of smart digital technology and manufacturing and places an emphasis on automation, machine learning and real-time data. This revolution is driven by the need to access real-time insights and information across the manufacturing process.
Industry 4.0 is the latest of 4 distinct industrial revolutions that the world has or is currently experiencing.
The Industrial Revolution
This is widely considered to have taken place in the late 1700s, when manufacturing advanced from manual labour, to the use of water and steam-powered engines for increased output and rudimentary optimised manufacturing.
The Second Industrial Revolution
With the introduction of steel and electricity in factories; the second industrial revolution began in the early 20th century. This resulted in the creation of mass production concepts such as the assembly line which broke down complex manufacturing into simple specific tasks.
The Third Industrial Revolution
Also known as the Digital Revolution. As more electronic technology began to be introduced to manufacturing processes, the switch away from analogue to digital technology occurred. Key to this revolution was the mass production of transistors and integrated circuit pieces as this made automation more accessible. This digital revolution is still occurring.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has emerged in the past few decades. It builds upon the foundation of the digital revolution, but with a whole new level of interconnectedness through the use of IoT, or the Internet of Things. Machine to machine communication, or M2M, alongside the IoT allows for self-monitoring smart machines that can assess and diagnose without human intervention.
This new wave of smart manufacturing uses access to real-time data to boost productivity and output, increasing efficiency and creating what is known as a smart factory. This goes one step further in some cases, where organisations are utilising augmented reality and artificial intelligence to go one step further.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.