With companies worldwide turning to new technologies to streamline processes, improve efficiency and build insights, there is no turning back. Industry 4.0, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, the era of connectivity, analytics, automation and advanced technologies, is here to stay. However, while Industry 4.0 is already transforming global businesses, there is lots to be learnt. To be able to benefit from Industry 4.0 and everything it has to offer, you need to know how best to plan and deploy available solutions, meet challenges and avoid roadblocks.
What is Industry 4.0?
The first three industrial revolutions brought water, steam power, electricity and digitisation to the fore, creating huge shifts in the way we live and work. Each revolution was powered by a disruptive new technology that didn’t just improve productivity and efficiency, but completely revolutionised how goods were produced and how work was done. And that’s exactly what’s happening again now.
Industry 4.0 brings together many enterprising and disruptive technologies that enable the collaboration between the human mind and technology to transform every domain, from manufacturing and agriculture to education, healthcare and more. The fourth industrial is giving companies unprecedented visibility and control by harnessing technologies such as:
- Internet of Things (IoT) – a network of physical objects embedded with sensors and software that enable them to be interconnected.
- Cloud Computing – the delivery of computing services, such as servers, storage, software, databases and networking, over the Internet.
- Augmented Reality – the overlay of digital content on a real-world environment using visual elements, sounds and sensory stimuli.
- Artificial Intelligence – the simulation of human intelligence using applications such as machine learning, natural language processing and speech recognition.
- 3D Printing – the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or digital 3D model.
- Autonomous Robots- robots equipped with cutting-edge software and capable of independently performing difficult and delicate tasks.
- Digital twins – a virtual simulation of a real-world product, process or system that spans its lifecycle and is updated from real-time data.
- Big Data and Analytics – data collected from a huge range of sources and analysed in real-time to deliver advanced insights.
- Cybersecurity – zero trust architecture and blockchain technologies to improve threat detection, prevention and response
The future of work will be centred around how these new technologies can be used to create sustainable operations and will redefine work as we know it. However, while the technology has the potential to improve efficiency in every business across every industry, it will also come with unique challenges.
What Are the Key Roadblocks to Industry 4.0?
While the opportunities of Industry 4.0 are clear to see, when it comes to deploying and optimising new technologies, companies can experience many roadblocks. These challenges can be technical, logistical, regulatory and environmental. What’s more, change is difficult, which means that people themselves can end up being a barrier. Some of the key roadblocks that businesses should be aware of include:
- Networking Capabilities- devices must be connected to a company’s network, from the edge, to the cloud and back again. Complexities with availability, bandwidth and latency can all cause problems, which makes selecting network architecture carefully extremely important.
- Data Availability – for data to yield value, it needs to be accessible; data silos continue to be a huge challenge, with legacy systems standing in the way of progress. Moving processes and workflows to the cloud and creating a centralised system is key; any Industry 4.0 solution must integrate with this system.
- Cybersecurity Threats – the more devices, networks, systems and applications a business uses, the greater the attack surface and risk of cyber threats. To counteract this, when incorporating Industry 4.0 technology, businesses must adhere to cybersecurity best practices and ensure security is never an afterthought.
- People and Processes – often, the challenge of Industry 4.0 rollouts isn’t technology but the people and processes involved. Planning and strategising, aligning stakeholders and board members, communicating at all levels of the business and setting clear expectations are all key to success.
- Vendor Relationships – vendors are vital to deploying Industry 4.0 solutions. However, if there is a lack of interoperability or long-term support, solutions don’t always deliver on their promises. Looking for vendors who collaborate closely with their clients and ensure long-term support is vital.
How to Overcome the Challenges of Transformation
There are so many benefits to be gained from digital transformation and the deployment of Industry 4.0 solutions, operational improvement, increased efficiency and enhanced visibility, to name but a few. However, to overcome the challenges that may stand in the way, businesses should consider creating a digitisation roadmap and centralising their strategies around the use of technologies. This includes considering how people will interact with these technologies, creating dedicated teams and ensuring organisational support is in place for new initiatives. As every business is at its own stage in the journey towards Industry 4.0, investments will need to be prioritised based on equipment, network infrastructure, data architect capabilities and more. Current capabilities and assets may need to be modernised or replaced before new technological initiatives can be incorporated. And, finally, best practices should always be reviewed before deploying any Industry 4.0 solutions, with cybersecurity built-in from the ground up.
Of course, to prepare your people and organisation for the digital future ahead, you may well need help and support. As the lines between the physical and digital become increasingly blurred, having a trusted, experienced and skilled software development company on hand will be key to successfully adopting new technologies. With the necessary niche skills on your side, you’ll be much better placed to take advantage of new technology, gain a competitive edge and move forward confidently into the digital realm.