Industry 4.0: digital transformation & manufacturing tech

Investment in technology is at an all-time high, but according to Marta Pieńkowska, Product Owner at STX Next, talk of Industry 5.0 is premature

Research from the World Economic Forum in late 2022 found that amid relative support for the use of data in manufacturing, just 39% of manufacturing executives said they were able to successfully scale data-driven use cases beyond the production process of a single product.

Despite this, murmurs of Industry 5.0 can already be heard. On the whole, these calls are speculative and premature. While Industry 4.0 is by no means a nascent concept, widespread adoption of its core principles is still firmly on the horizon.

Marta Pieńkowska, Product Owner at STX Next, tells us more. 

Marta Pieńkowska, Product Owner at STX Next

Marta Pieńkowska, Product Owner at STX Next

Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0

"There is no doubting the power of Industry 4.0 technologies and how these can greatly transform the way products are designed, analysed, and produced. In order to fully capitalise on its potential, however, it’s essential to first understand and adopt the design principles needed to make Industry 4.0 a reality," says Pieńkowska. "The needs of manufacturers are naturally varied and unique, with no one-size-fits-all approach to growth or technology adoption. 

"The amount of time it takes to fully implement Industry 4.0 for each business will depend on current levels of adoption and company structure. There are also several common challenges when it comes to introducing it into a business, such as cybersecurity considerations that come with added interconnectivity between systems, or having the right skills in place to implement new technologies successfully.

"The journey to Industry 4.0 starts with understanding and identifying your goals, then assessing the quality of your data by auditing and analysing your current systems, processes and assets. As such, there are a number of core design principles that provide a framework for creating a more sophisticated and efficient production process:


Opt for the smart

"At the core of Industry 4.0 is the interconnectivity and automation of manufacturing through the collection, analysis, and exchange of data between cyber-physical systems.

"This is called smart communication, which is made possible by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Smart communication provides solutions that can process and analyse large amounts of data at a speed and accuracy beyond human capabilities. These solutions allow for necessary decisions to be made with little or no human assistance."


Take care of data quality

"Creating a smart network requires high-quality data, as it influences the network’s intelligence and communication. However, data quality is not the same as data quantity. The volume of unstructured data output is at an all-time high.

"It’s crucial to focus on collecting data that’s relevant rather than use any data that is available, since low-quality data can unnecessarily consume valuable resources."


Get ready for digital transformation

"Making the switch to Industry 4.0 can’t take place without completing digital transformation. A transition from analogue to digital methods or from digital processes to automated systems throughout your entire manufacturing process, so that systems can be interconnected, is one of the first steps and must be done in a considered way.

"In order to increase reliance on data and base decision-making on it, the process of integrating hardware and software used in production must be thorough and meaningful."


Decentralise decisions

"Enabling machines to make simple, routine decisions based on algorithms is another goal of Industry 4.0. It is a crucial step in achieving a production line that is less labour-intensive and less prone to human error.

"Machines that can recognise patterns and identify errors through artificial intelligence can take on a significant workload, freeing up employees to focus on more complex problems that require human intervention."


Next steps

The adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies can bring significant benefits to your business, including increased productivity, profitability, safety and optimisation, as well as improved recordkeeping and traceability.

"The opportunities it creates, however, go well beyond the facilitation and automation of the production process. Introducing Industry 4.0 means using technology to supervise every step of the development process and predict any potential challenges ahead."

Adopting these principles is fundamental in truly embracing the next industrial revolution.

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