100 years back, most of our forefathers worked in farms, and then came the first industrial revolution. There was a shift in employment from farming to working in factories. People re-trained to work in factories and the productivity exploded. Future of Manufacturing is really interesting from a perspective.
Manufacturing sector today is on the verge of a similar transition as the 4th industrial revolution, nicknamed “Industry 4.0” is knocking on the door once again. In this article, we will touch upon what is it and where the future of manufacturing industry is headed.
Based on predictions by industry experts, 100 years from now, our future generations will be working in fully automated, self-regulated factories with small but highly skilled human workforce. If I can time-travel, I can see my great grand-child introducing his/her colleagues as: “TBX6732, XOP1098, and ARA3045”. Confused? All of them would be smart human compatible robots, which can understand natural language commands, working shoulder to shoulder with human colleagues.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 or I4 is the future of the manufacturing industry, powered by innovations such as Robotics, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Smart Manufacturing Techniques. Smart manufacturing techniques include an additive, agile and modular manufacturing, nanotechnology, and sustainability.
Industry 4.0 or digital factories will affect all areas of manufacturing, including maintenance, waste management, energy efficiency, supply and demand management, logistics, production, marketing, lifecycle management, and product improvements. It will facilitate real-time optimization, transparency, and adaptability.
How will intelligent factories of future look and function?
You might think – “So what? Robots are being used even now in factories”. The game changer here is the fact that all the technological innovations are coming together under the umbrella of Industry 4.0. Factories of the future will be nothing like what you see today. Today’s industrial robots which repetitively perform a given task in a preprogrammed sequence will be history.
Smart factories of future will use the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to connect IT systems and machine automation infrastructure, resulting in self-organizing systems. Factories of future will run on autopilot mode, with smart robots taking data-based decisions about when to speed up the production and when to slow down; when to switch-off a machine or shut down an entire unit due to safety hazards. Products will use RFID tags and sensors to find their way independently through the production process, and machines and products will be able to communicate with each other cooperatively driving production. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform the factories forever.
There will be preventive maintenances for machines based on continuous monitoring of machine fluid and oil just like preventive health check-ups for humans. These checks will ensure there are no accidents or unplanned shutdowns. Smart inventory management systems or connected stock rooms will not be storing unnecessary spare parts but will order the required items just-in-time based on predictive maintenance.
Like any other industrial revolution, this will be a gradual process. Companies have realized the importance and are slowly moving towards the concept of smart factories. Fujitsu’s smart digital factory in Augsburg is one such example where innovative interim storage facility “Supermarket” has been designed to prepare components for assembly and store them in special transport cartons. A smart self-driving electric vehicle “The Logistics Train” ensures these components are delivered to production units just-in-sequence. This intelligent factory responds flexibly to the level of orders.
Once factories are digitized, the next step would be making them smarter. Data will be the driving force for the evolution of manufacturing. Digital factories of the future will produce an enormous amount of data due to the extensive use of sensors. This data will be used to train the machine learning algorithms to enable smart robots to take decisions based on various operating parameters.
Factories of future will be able to plan the needed downtime during a period of low demand and predict which items will be in high demand based on hundreds of variables such as weather, the time of the year, past sales, and search history of a company’s website etc.
Benefits of Industry 4.0
- There are many advantages to the upcoming industrial revolution. Some of them are-Reduced operational expenses due to better planning and management of resources.
- Health and safety of workers working in dangerous working conditions will improve dramatically.
- There will be no need to manufacture and store dead inventory as manufacturing will be on-demand.
- The entire supply chain will be controlled based on real-time data thus resulting in efficient and lean processes.
- Lesser scope for human error leading to reduced accidents and better product quality.
- Increased efficiency will result in higher profits, market shares, and healthier economies.
As will all great innovations, there are some challenges in the adoption of Industry 4.0, such as lack of experienced manpower, data security issues and loss of high paying human jobs.
Yes, most of the routine, repetitive and lowest paying jobs will be automated resulting in job losses. But the situation is not that gloomy because we will still need trained technicians to operate the factory, manage the robots, program them and maintain them.
Just like the shift from farm work to factory work 100 years ago, workers will have to be trained for new kind of jobs. Jobs such as building software, hardware and firmware; designing automation and robotics; maintaining new equipment etc. According to experts, every new robot will generate 3 new human jobs.
“We Need Human Intention & The Power Of Artificial Intelligence To Sustain”
In a nutshell, the future of manufacturing will use machines, data & robots with intentional automation to do everything we are doing now, more efficiently. Combining the capabilities of humans and robots together, along with advances in Artificial Intelligence, automation, and 3-D printing will play an important role in this upcoming exciting era in manufacturing.
The day is not very far when humans will work and have intelligent communication with robots just like any other colleague. In fact, Singapore has already started using robots to teach phonics to toddlers in preschools – a smart move to prepare the future workforce!
Well if you’ve read so far – you might as well check out our Manufacturing Intelligence COCO