Industry 4.0 – the pros and cons of the new industrial revolution
The new industrial revolution is here. We’ve come a long way from the first industrial revolution in the 1700-1800s when mechanised production processes were revolutionised with the introduction of automated and semi-automated machinery, making many manual production methods obsolete. Now, over 200 years later we are entering the new industrial revolution – commonly known as Industry 4.0, and it is evident that this industrial revolution is set to last for a very long time. But is it all sunshine and roses? Below we have some of the pros and cons of Industry 4.0 laid out to help you make up your mind on if, how or when you should be looking to implement a new digital transformation strategy.
Let’s start with the positives (and there are a great many!) The introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies has vastly increased productivity across all areas of the production line. Machines require less downtime than humans and the more self-aware AI machines can learn from their mistakes and processes.
Traditionally manufacturing plants are fairly self-contained in their operations resulting in minimal knowledge sharing and interaction. The round-the-clock nature of automated workflow that Industry 4.0 has helped facilitate has removed barriers such as time, location, and platform.
Ultimately, this improved productivity leads to increased ROI. So far everything sounds great. We’ve found a way to theoretically increase productivity, collaboration and ROI – but how does this work in practice? There are certainly some barriers that we are still fighting against to take full advantage of the ever-developing Industry 4.0 technologies.
Firstly, the lack of skills to manage these complex Industry 4.0 structures. The technology created develops faster than we can learn to keep up with the processes. The need to re-skill staff in an industry where staffing and skill issues have been consistently rising can lead to the introduction of new technologies doing the opposite of their intended purpose. Training must be placed at the forefront of the digital revolution if it is to be effectively utilised.
A natural progression from this is the lack of knowledge of how to effectively implement digital transformation on a structural level within a company. This lack of internal alignment with business strategy can lead to significant internal challenges as new technologies are trialled and implemented.
Finally, the overwhelming amount of trust required in IT and data security from the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies can lead to significant issues. The implementation of digitised processes leaves systems open to various threats including cyberattacks, system malfunctions and misconfigurations, product failures and other issues that can delay or negatively affect production. Digital transformation is not called digital implementation for a reason – it is a process that requires an overhaul of previous infrastructure and strategy to be effectively utilised.
What are your Industry 4.0 challenges, and do you have any tips as to how to overcome them?
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Written by Charlie Taylor, Advanced Engineering