The industry of the 21st century is based on the rapid exchange of information, often without human intervention. Will the disappearance of the barrier between man and machine have a definite date?
The steam engine, the assembly line, and then the computer – this is the list of inventions that have become milestones ushering in successive industrial revolutions. While the “fourth industrial revolution” would be unthinkable without the latter, Industry 4.0 centers around something else – the Internet and the disappearance of the barrier between humans and machines. Although it sounds like it’s pulled out of a science fiction movie, we are actually in the middle of it, and the “fourth industrial revolution” is happening right now.
The first mass production
It all started around 1800, when with the first mass production using human-powered machines, the term: “industry”. It was the mechanical weaving loom that became the first machine to be used on a mass scale and to produce a large number of goods in a short period of time. Shortly thereafter, improved machinery replaced human muscle power with propulsion from a steam engine. This invention paved the way for innovations such as railroads, steam ships, and industrial mining and accelerated human development significantly. The introduction of electricity in the late 19th century ushered in the second industrial revolution. Since then, the first automobiles, factory automation, telephone conversations, and telegrams have allowed for a faster exchange of information, accelerated transportation, and the production of more complex goods. Almost a century later, the first functional computer was developed, followed a little later by personal computers for offices and private homes. Industry 3.0 focused on the development of electronics and IT – thus allowing complex computing, design and simulation processes to be carried out in every home where a computer stood. Already in the 1970s, modern information technologies were first applied in businesses and offices. They simplified personnel management, enabled the use of ERP systems, and popularized computer-aided design in industry. Nevertheless, in Industry 4.0 it is not the computer that is the central technology, but the Internet and the methodology of connecting subsequent devices and production processes. In short: the fourth industrial revolution is leading to the increasing digitization of formerly analog technologies
What Industry 4.0 is today
Today’s industrial development is focused on the production of modern information and communication technologies that make company processes more efficient and cost-effective. Internet of Things (IoT) deals with creation of virtual networks between real devices – its example can be a smart home. Thanks to an application on the phone, the user can adjust the temperature in rooms, open windows and put water in the tea before entering. Machine-to-machine communication is a concept similar to IoT, but refers to industrial devices that automatically exchange information with each other and with a central control center. Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) describe new forms of visualization that use end devices – VR glasses and smartphones – to create other variants of reality, modified partially or completely. Artificial intelligence (AI), on the other hand, deals with collecting data and, based on that data, learning to make decisions on its own in new situations
The fourth industrial revolution in our homes
Beyond the smart home concept, Industry 4.0 is used in thousands of other solutions. The production of a single custom-ordered item forces companies to collaborate and engage together. The fact that their machines and people are networked together makes it easier to coordinate and speed up the various stages of production. This gives companies a number of advantages: short reaction times in case of problems, time and cost savings through just-in-time production without the need to store manufactured items, and even greater individualization of the product. The largest clothing companies allow you to personalise your sneakers by ordering models with your own inscriptions and signs, choosing the right material and colors. Complete automation of the process virtually connects the ordering company’s home computer with machines that produce components for sewing shoes, and these machines prepare the pieces that then go to the production line. Due to advanced logistic processes and speed, the cost of such operation is comparable to a standard mass production and it also fulfills a marketing function. The machine cutting the appropriate pattern from the selected material can itself notify the headquarters of the lack of adequate supply of raw material and ask the operator for a supply. It can also stop work by itself, report a defect or even analyze production data – all by means of the Industry 4.0 network.
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