The myriad of Industry 4.0 opportunities
“Industry 4.0” refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution brought about by the transformation enabled by various digital technologies when applied primarily to manufacturing and industrial processes.
The digital transformation of industrial processes and systems revolves around information related to various activities converted into digital format. This in turn allows interconnected systems to process and analyze this information to drive other intelligent actions back into the physical world. Equipping industrial assets with sensors, tracking devices and other data generation devices enables actionable insights to drive process optimization, innovation and collaboration, thereby improving added value.
The following is a non-exhaustive summary of the main technology enablers of Industry 4.0:
Internet of Things (IoT): these are physical objects such as sensors or machines used to connect to the Internet;
Artificial Intelligence (AI): This is the ability of a computer to perform tasks and make decisions that would otherwise require human intervention;
Cloud computing refers to the service of providing or purchasing computing power and data storage without ownership of the hardware;
M2M refers to inter-machine communication via wireless or wired networks;
RFID technologies refer to a wireless system made up of two components: tags and readers;
Big data and analytics refers to data storage and business intelligence applied to large volumes of data.
Technology, especially analytics and visualization technologies, can remove the need to manipulate data manually; this in turn lends itself to the optimization of processes not only within a company’s boundaries but also towards the company’s wide network, such as suppliers and other business partners.
Data analysis can identify patterns and provide information that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable amount of time
Supply chain and storage management as well as fleet optimization are some of the application areas where these technologies have not only proven their worth, but have also brought significant gains. Tracking and controlling a large number of products or spare parts can be labor intensive.
The introduction of automation and tracking technologies such as RFID, coupled with AI models, can help process large data sets, while data visualization tools allow companies to understand the bigger picture. easily. This in turn translates into better decision making which greatly reduces the possibility of a supply shortage or possibly losses due to the goods becoming obsolete or expired. Fleet managers need to optimize the overall cost of transportation and improve the deployment of their vehicles and the productivity of their staff in the face of changing situations such as route changes, seasonal variations as well as rising fuel costs. This is in addition to compliance with increasingly stringent CO2 emissions requirements which are rising to the top of the agenda.
Digital connectivity technologies such as IoT devices provide these managers with the path to real-time fleet visibility and monitoring to acquire critical data. This, combined with business intelligence software, can extrapolate and evaluate data and accelerate decision-making to keep the fleet moving without interruption and with maximum efficiency.
Industry 4.0 offers a myriad of opportunities to optimize business operations. Connection systems that collect large volumes of data can identify potential issues at an early stage before they have a significant impact on business operations.
Analyzing this data can also identify patterns and provide information that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable amount of time.
Harnessing these technologies can generate benefits such as increased resilience and agility and can contribute significantly to the bottom line, not to mention contributing to more environmentally friendly businesses.
This article has been prepared by bringing together various publicly available online sources.
Johann Mifsud is an executive at the eSkills Malta Foundation.
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