Although there are many definitions for Industry 4.0, generally speaking “Industry 4.0” or “Industrial Internet” is the fourth shift in manufacturing technology.
Most everyone is taught in school about the first industrial revolution (Industry 1.0) involving Watt’s vapor powered technology and Bessemer’s steel making improvement. Machines generally drove this significant improvement in output, as well as the creation of new industrial segments including metallurgy, chemicals and textile. Usually there was still heavy labor involvement, but the development of new machinery enabled significant improvements in output as well as the ability to transport those goods via rail and powered ships.
The second industrial revolution during the early 1900’s was characterized by dramatic improvements again in output, but by organizing the assembly line. The poster story for this era was Henry Ford’s important changes on the model T assembly line involving division of labor. In addition, during this period electrical energy became more available, further improving output.
The third industrial revolution during the 1960’s and 1970’s primarily integrated electronics to achieve the next level of improved output. While several automated robots were developed during this era, this era was most characterized by integrated PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers) on machinery enabling better machine control and better supervisory control systems.
Now, we are witnessing the dawn of Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, which increasingly is enabling the connection of physical (machine) systems with digital output (information technology, internet) that result in additional productivity increases through monitoring of machine and production conditions. Most significantly the internet is not being used as a means to not just connect people as it did in the early days with email and browser technology. The internet is now is being used to connect physical devices in the home and factory. Bit by bit, this technology will connect not only cars, but industrial machines and components.
However, the real story is not in the ability just to connect machinery or components to the internet, but using data analytics to develop a new wave of machine intelligence that can be used to diagnose machine condition and avoid production issues. Obviously people have voices and the ability to communicate via the ethernet, but machines have only trapped symptoms which must be discovered, modelled and then analyzed so that their voices are released from the inside of machines to the screens of intelligent workers that can now understand what previously undiscovered machine symptoms are telling them.