We are in the midst of yet another technological revolution: Industry 4.0- the convergence of human and machine across industrial workplaces through IoT, cyber-physical networks, and proliferation of high-speed networking. Although a majority of Industry 4.0 applications benefit manufacturing, several other industrial verticals like warehousing, retail, field services, and natural resources are utilizing Industrial IoT to take their businesses to the next level. Before we dive into the benefits and applications of Industry 4.0, here is a brief history of industrial revolutions.
Industry 1.0 - Steam Engine, Water Power, Mechanization
Industry 2.0 -Mass production, assembly line, electric energy
Industry 3.0 -Automation, computers and electronics
Industry 4.0 - High Speed cyber-physical networks, Internet of Things, AI, robotics
Industry 4.0 builds upon the innovations of Industry 3.0 computerization with the power of high-speed data infrastructures and AI to create an optimized digital industrial environment.
Why Industrial IoT is important for enterprises:
1. It does NOT mean the end of human labor!
While robotics and automation will continue to replace some human roles, new human worker roles are needed to connect, orchestrate, and work with machines. With Industry 4.0 comes the convergence of the human and autonomous workforce. New human roles and innovative tools like wearable computers and sensors are needed to bring humans and robotics together to make a cohesive superhuman workforce. For example, Fetch Robotics builds autonomous guided vehicles for the warehouse that work with humans. Their AGVs find, track, and move anything from parts to pallets in warehouses, factories, and distribution centers, reducing labor costs related to the steps/time required to move packages throughout a facility.
2. Real-Time Visibility
Industry 4.0 allows connectivity of all actors and assets within industrial operations. This means humans, forklifts, AGVs, packages, tools, machinery, and infrastructure can be outfitted to collect, send, and receive data. Hardware sensors enable full connectivity of the workplace which is then visualized by robust software and analytics platforms. Supply Chain managers can visualize real-time, micro and macro views of operations, from worker productivity rates, asset-tracking, utilization rates, temperature fluctuations, and much, much more. Using the Rufus Enterprise Platform, manufacturing and warehouse managers can view real-time workforce productivity metrics, KPIs, safety incidents, communication, and more from the organization level all the way down to the individual worker.
3. A.I. Powered Decision Making
The ability to visualize thousands of data points covering the entirety of your business sounds great…but the real magic happens when you combine industrial IoT with the power of Artificial Intelligence. Data from connected devices, machines, and workers can be analyzed and optimized for maximizing productivity, lowering costs, reallocating resources, reducing downtime, far faster and more effectively than traditional analyses. Californian company Skycatch is building drones uses AI to map sites, plan work, and even guide autonomous construction vehicles on building sites.
We have only just scratched the surface of Industry 4.0 and the exciting, new applications of the connected industrial workplace. We believe the rise of cyber-physical networks, IoT, AI, and robotics has revolutionized the role of the human worker, creating a superhuman, connected workforce.