Has Industry 4.0 already arrived?

has industry 4.0 arrived

Remember that tale about the King’s new clothes? For several years industry has been buzzing about the dawn of a new era in manufacturing, a 4th Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 as we have come to know it.

It’ll connect fantastic new devices (that will need to be conceived, designed and developed) from every aspect of life to create a world that’s integrated, awash with data, connected and filled by digitised, optimised and automated factories yet customer and consumer centric. Over a similar period we’ve also become used to and understand terms like the Internet of Things (IoT), digitised manufacturing, Big Data, mass –customisation and maybe been a little distracted.

Meanwhile the software needed to create and manage this sensor filled world and the engineering of the products that will characterise the fruit of Industry 4.0 has slipped in, almost un-noticed amongst the hype and rhetoric.

It’s not an AI but as a human/machine combination you might be forgiven for thinking it is. It may well be an interim step to a complete or, dare I say, ‘final’ solution where usage information is merged with wants and desires to create personalised products via optimised processes to satisfy our needs, fulfil our desires or otherwise fill our unique, somewhat insular, lives. It wouldn’t be fair to call it an enterprise PLM because there are many products out there that you would place in that category, desperately trying to catch up. When you look under the skin of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, from those clever Dassault Systèmes chaps, you’ll see the visionary development that goes well beyond PLM. When I recently experienced its real time business analytics capability and how it’s incorporating the latest developments in Additive Manufacturing its capability to deliver an Internet enabled Industry 4.0 grabbed me. Like the boy in the tale, I kind of saw things that it didn’t seem anyone else had noticed. Take a good look yourself and you’ll find a complex system with an appetite for the new, an entire ecosystem with an ability to digest and manage information and an increasing ability to automate, release and exploit information, irrespective of location, optimise and deliver everything you have been expecting from Industry 4.0.

But what of the human component?

You have to turn to the commercial world, academics, the warriors & the socially motivated and active to develop the next generation of products as they traditionally hold the desire, drive, motivation and where with all to innovate. The IoT enables the data feed, supplementing more traditional marketing routes into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Industry 4.0 inspires its design and management of new, self-managing and correcting manufacturing assets and flexible processes to produce individualised products from digitised factories and super optimised and digitised value chains. It automates processes from concept through design, simulation and manufacture with Intelligent Engineering but still needs skilled engineers and experienced managers to do this as most systems start as a blank canvas. We are no doubt getting closer to self-learning systems but at the moment we’re happy to use technology to support re-use of Intellectual Property throughout the system, a system that is increasingly being automated. Maybe one day our industrial systems will be able to access and re-use all the data available to innovate new products and create them instantly in the most effective and efficient way and with little or no human content. But then why would the machinery do this for their fruits to be consumed by society. Who will be making the critical decisions then? 

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