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Industry 4.0: The next industrial revolution?

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Industry 4.0? industrial revolution? smart factories? manufacturing?

Industry 4.0 is touted as the next big thing in manufacturing.

The term originated at the Hannover Messe a few of years ago, when it was defined as the computerisation of manufacturing, including a transition to higher levels of interconnectivity, smarter plants and communication between machines and equipment.

The first industrial revolution was the development of mechanisation using water and steam power. The second paradigm shift was the introduction of electricity in manufacturing environments, which facilitated the shift to mass production. The digital revolution happened during our lifetime, using electronics and IT to further automate manufacturing.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the fourth in this series of industrial revolutions. Although it is still, relatively speaking, in its infancy, the idea relies on sophisticated software and machines that communicate with each other to optimise production.

In Industry 4.0, strong emphasis is placed on the role of intelligent factories. They are energy-efficient organisations based on high-tech, adaptable and ergonomic production lines. Smart factories aim to integrate customers and business partners, while also being able to manufacture and assemble customised products.

Furthermore, tomorrow's smart plants will most likely be expected to take more autonomous decisions regarding production efficiency and safety. Industry 4.0 is more about machines doing the work and interpreting the data, than relying on human intelligence. The human element is still central to the manufacturing process, but fulfils a control, programming and servicing role rather than a shop floor function.

The Siemens (IW 1000/34) Electronic Works facility in Amberg, Germany, is a good example of the next generation of smart plants. The 108,000 square-foot high-tech facility is home to an array of smart machines that coordinate everything from the manufacturing line to the global distribution of the company's products.

The custom, built-to-order process involves more than 1.6 billion components for over 50,000 annual product variations, for which Siemens sources about 10,000 materials from 250 suppliers to make the plant's 950 different products. This means the amount of data the system has to work with is truly overwhelming.

- Steve Hughes
??EE Times Europe





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