The Industrial Revolutions in the past have given life to the manufacturing industries and factories, transforming them throughout the course of history to make them more efficient, reduces cost and boosts the margins of profit while churning out more and more products to the masses. So what awaits the factories with the advent of Industry 4.0? What must be done by them in order to remain relevant in future?
To begin with, the crux of Industry 4.0 lies on the Internet and virtual world. As such, implementing Internet of Things (IoT) in supply chain management certainly seems like one of the right ideas. By placing sensors in production line and networking them, factories are capable to manufacture more efficiently and in-time. This is made possible by implementing predictive analytics over the collected data to allow processes to flow in a timely manner and reduces sudden breakdowns or hiccups that will bring major losses to the factory. Consequently, remote quality control is also enabled via the IoT systems, resulting in reduced wastages and increased productivity as well.
To speed up execution, collaborative robots or cobots are inserted to work alongside humans to automate routine tasks with the help of computer vision to make sense of its surroundings, while the humans can focus on tasks that are more demanding. Such examples can be seen in warehouse management with Amazon and Alibaba being the major companies that have successfully replaced humans with swarming robots that completely take over the mundane tasks in the warehouse.
Moving on, as humans are still an important part in the production line, technologies can be made to boost their work and reduces human error. For instance, equipment can now be made modular with the current technology which eases assembly and increases portability. Besides that, introducing augmented reality (AR) in the industry via aspects of assembly, maintenance, monitoring and training. By equipping a supportive headgear or glasses a la Google Glass, human operators no longer have to go through and memorize mundane instruction manuals, instead the information can be projected directly using the mentioned equipment to the user when needed. As such, new workers can be less error-prone and will be able to adapt to the tasks at a much quicker rate.
Monitoring the statuses and health of each workers via wearables, while sounding a bit controversial, is in fact a useful suggestion to manage the workers so that they will stay healthy and working at an optimal productivity. To protect the data that can be sensitive and private at times, blockchain can be brought in the process of data exchange, in which transfer is usually encrypted, and is facilitated only when both parties are trusted, reducing the occurrences of data tampering.
Moving out to the stores, trucks are no longer needed to be manned anymore, instead the emergence of self-driving technology that is now bleeding into almost every mode of transport which includes trucks will reduce the overhead for truck drivers. As the technology comes to mature, unmanned trucks are certain to make delivery of goods possible, no matter what time of the day.
As with the past Industrial Revolutions, factories will have to make significant investments in order to transform themselves and their ways of working to be ready for Industry 4.0. As with the past Industrial Revolutions as well, this will surely bring good payoffs that are certain to propel them forward into the future.