‘Industry 4.0’ refers to the fourth industrial revolution brought about by the transformation enabled by various digital technologies when applied primarily to manufacturing and industrial processes.
The digital transformation of industrial processes and systems is centred around information related to various activities converted in digital format. This in turn enables interconnected systems to process and analyse this information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world. Equipping industrial assets with sensors, tracking devices and other data- generation devices results in actionable insights that are conducive to process optimisation, innovation and collaboration, thus enhancing value added.
The following is a non-exhaustive summary of key technology enablers of Industry 4.0:
Internet of Things (IoT): This refers to physical objects like sensors or machines enabled to connect to the internet;
Artificial intelligence (AI): This refers to a computer’s ability to perform tasks and make decisions that would otherwise require human intervention;
Cloud computing refers to the service of supplying or procuring computing power and data storage without ownership of hardware;
M2M refers to inter-machine communication via wireless or wired networks;
RFID technologies refers to a wireless system comprised of two components: tags and readers;
Big data and analytics refers to data storage and business intelligence as applied to large volumes of data.
Technology, especially analytical and visualisation technologies, can remove the need to manipulate data manually; this in turn lends itself to the optimisation of processes not only within the boundaries of a company but also towards the business’ extended network, such as suppliers and other business partners.
Analysis of data may identify patterns and provide insights that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable timeframe
Supply chain and storage management as well as fleet optimisation are among the application areas where such technologies have not only proved themselves but also brought significant gain. It can be very labour intensive to track and control large number of products or spare parts.
Introducing automation and tracking technologies such as RFID, coupled with AI models, can help to process large data sets, while data visualisation tools enable businesses to comprehend the situation more easily. This in turn results in better decision-making that significantly reduces the possibility of shortage of supply or possibly losses due to goods becoming either obsolete or expired. Fleet managers have to optimise the overall cost of transportation and improve their vehicle deployment and staff productivity in the face of changing situations such as route changes, seasonal variations as well as rising fuel costs. This is in addition to meeting increasingly stricter CO2 emission requirements that are moving towards the top of the agenda.
Digital connectivity technologies such as IoT devices provide such managers with the pathway to real-time fleet visibility and monitoring to acquire essential data. This, combined with business intelligence software, can extrapolate and evaluate the data and accelerate decision-making to keeping the fleet moving without disruptions and at its highest efficiency.
Industry 4.0 offers a myriad of opportunities to optimise business operations. Connecting systems that collect large volumes of data can identify potential problems early on before they have a significant impact on the business operation.
Analysis of this data may also identify patterns and provide insights that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable time frame.
Leveraging these technologies can reap benefits such as enhanced resilience and agility and can significantly contribute towards the bottom line, not to mention contribute towards businesses that are more environmentally friendly.
This article was prepared by collating various publicly available online sources.
Johann Mifsud is an executive at the eSkills Malta Foundation.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us