Industry 4.0 is a term used to reference the next phase of the industrial revolution. My preference at this point is to call it an industrial evolution. Technology continues to advance at rapid rates, but it has, for the most part, been compartmentalized. In other words, cloud computing has primarily been applied to software services and file storage. Industrial connectivity has focused on the collection of data and remote access for diagnostic purposes. The Internet of Things (IoT) has not been leveraged in the industrial world. Artificial Intelligence has largely not been leveraged in the industrial world either.
Industry 4.0 brings these technologies to industrial applications, allowing increased connectivity among devices and controllers. If applied correctly, this increased connectivity will allow for decentralized decision making to take place. These decisions will be made in real-time based on the communication between modular devices.
Example: The factory consists of four separate pieces of equipment. These pieces of equipment produce a combination of ten different products for customers. There is a constraint on a component provided by an outside supplier that will not allow for the production of one of the products. The Smart Factory will automatically shift the production schedule to reflect the constraint reducing downtime due to a lack of parts.
The example above is simple and meant to give some context to how Industry 4.0 takes inputs from a collaborative, decentralized data set to make real-time decisions. Of course, the implementation takes premeditation and significant programming by humans. We believe this will prove to be the near-term constraint of Industry 4.0 implementation but over time, the hours and effort will be invested to overcome this constraint.
Think connectivity, adaptability, real-time, efficiency, cloud, etc.
The backbone of Industry 4.0 is the Ethernet and IoT. This hardware is used to provide the system feedback necessary for the software systems to make the decisions. The decisions will be made at line level versus management level which will theoretically increase efficiency. This is only possible with highly adaptive smart control systems that are built by humans. Smart humans are particularly integral to building Smart Factories.