The fourth industrial revolution identifies a new era in which industries, driven by the need to compete in a global market, find in technological innovation the answer to stay efficient, improve the organization and the quality of the work and reduce production costs. Between 2011 and 2012, in the Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing manifesto, the principles and some long-term strategies for the digitalisation of the manufacturing industry have been defined, bringing together businesses, research centers and trade associations.
The history of mankind is characterized by trasformation and progress, but the speed and the effects of the digital revolution happening right now are unique and more impacting than ever. The fourth industrial revolution is changing markets and production models all around the world thanks to the milions of people connected with mobile and stationary devices and the promotion of a series of innovative technologies, whose growth speed and diffusion are always increasing.
Fourth industrial revolution: when did it start and why
Thinking about the industrial evolution, from the first revolution triggered by the adoption of steam engines, to the second industrial era triggered by the introduction of eletronics and informatics in the production line, it is always easy to determine in each historical moment a triggering event that lead to change. The fourth industrial revolution happened after the Internet’s arrival and is linked to the intuition that every device associated to an identity and integrated with sensor networks can be programmed to interact or be part of much more complex systems that can be reached from remote. Even if today it is not possibile to predict which technologies will be more succesfull, there is evident proof of the fact that a definition and a correct implementation of a digital transformation plan is having a strong impact on businesses, regardless of the technologies used. Both from the production and the distribution point of view, the efficiency of the vital activities of businesses (which means being able to gain market and public shares) is everyday more dependent on the adoption of the right technologies.
Industry 4.0: the benefits for businesses
Today the industrial and manufacturing companies have the opportunity of improving their competitiveness and efficiency through the interconnection of equipment and people and the exploitment of the cooperation between internal and external resources, all linked to big sets of data. This possibilities increase everyday in number thanks to the continuous investments in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Collaborative Robotics, Augmented and Virtual Reality, 3D Print, Autonomous Vehicles, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology.
Like past revolutions, the fourth industrial revolution is capable of altering the national and International economic forces while also improving workers’ and peoples’ life all around the world. Booking a taxi or buying an airplane ticket are only some of the benefits that we can use everyday. At the same time, the technological innovation is capable of helping businesses in the reduction of production costs leading therefore to a growth in revenues and productivity. Transportation and communication costs are diminishing, logistics departments and production chains use shared communicational channels and research, development and marketing departments have the means to be completely focused on the product.
The new technologies leading the fourth industrial revolution
Every product or service can be equipped with digital elements that are able to increase their value. Every industry has technologies at its own disposal that could innovate its core areas with the possibility of strongly impacting every human and mechanical aspect of the business. The technologies belonging to the Internet of Things and Big Data are the most mature ones, that have been largely used also by italian companies, while Cloud Manufacturing and Advanced Human Machine Interface are placing themself as the technologies to refer to in the coming years. Innovative apps, such as the ones related to product development, suppliers management and product lifecycle definition, are growing and impacting all the processes that interact with the work in factories. The conservation, management and processing of data is becoming an hot topic of the fourth industrial revolution since it became possible to add sensors to machineries that are able to collect metrics and performance values. Cloud solutions are used everyday, also in Italy. In fact, they become very useful to realize apps and monitors with a distributed approach, but also to save data and associate it to replica and retention logics. In this context, some italian clouds such as Red Cloud, are taking over for their ability of offering the right solution to medium and small italian businesses that decide to follow the path of digital evolution. At the same time, platforms that are able to work with big sets of data such as ELCK stack and TICK stack that come with a time series database like InfluxDB are becoming more popular thanks also to their flexibility in usage.
In Italy the Piano Nazionale Industria 4.0, also called Impresa 4.0, was launched in 2016 with the aim of supporting the development of the 4.0 Industry. The plan, created for medium and small businesses, wants to enhance innovative investments and allow the development of capabilities through incentives and specific directives. It is definitely an opportunity that deserves some attention. To find out more about how to start your digitisation process it is possible to download the free E-Book “ 5 steps to develop an industry 4.0 project”. Become part of the fourth industrial revolution!