With the rise of robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence), industries are slowly transforming into automated production lines. This evolution is called Industry 4.0. What will this wave of automation entail? How will businesses and organizations adapt to run their operations successfully in this new environment? This article will answer these questions.
The Impact of Industry 4.0
According to (research) there are currently more than 500 million business-critical apps globally, with a market size of over US$20 billion. While efficient in completing business tasks put on them, without proper management ecosystem these apps commonly conflict with each other. This creates market opportunity for AI and automation.
The driving force behind the Industry 4.0 movement is the Internet of Things, or IoT. The IoT connects physical objects to the internet, allowing them to communicate and interact with each other, and enables automated, efficient, and safe production processes. So what can we upgrade?
Production Lines Are Changing
Thanks to the IoT, production lines are slowly evolving into automated systems. This change will likely impact every industry, from healthcare to transportation, retail, and logistics. In fact, according to a Gartner survey, 47% of Fortune 500 companies are already using some form of AI automation.
Robots Are Improving The Lives Of Operators
The application of robots in the industry is expanding exponentially. Some of the most well-known brands in the world have already integrated robots into their production lines, including BMW, Tesla, and Foxconn, the manufacturer of iPhones for Apple. Companies like Adidas and HP have adopted industrial robots to speed up repetitive tasks and maximize production rates. Robots don’t get tired, make mistakes, or need breaks. Less monotone work for humans, too!
The rise of Lean Manufacturing
A lean manufacturing is a major trend of Industry 4.0 that focuses on improving quality and reducing the amount of waste during the production process. For example, when producing an assemble-to-order car, fewer components need to be cut, folded, and glued, resulting in fewer wasted parts, reduces the amount of material and the risk of over-processing.
Software Solutions For Industry 4.0
In addition to hardware solutions like robots, Industry 4.0 also provides software solutions that can help automate and optimize production lines. Platforms like Arduino MIND create automated systems that perform one-off tasks, monitor and report on the status of production lines. Even Microsoft AI Skills Certification, a certification program that teaches developers how to work with AI, is a step towards automating processes and standardizing workflows.
Why Should You Care About Industry 4.0?
Although much about Industry 4.0 focuses on the promise that it holds for increasing productivity and cutting costs, there are significant risks that come with this paradigm shift. Here are just a few of them:
New Product Development Will Become More Inefficient
Thanks to lean manufacturing and the increase of automated processes, the routing phase of new product development will likely become heavier, as there is less human intervention required. That means that the time to market for new products will likely decrease.
Even established companies like Mercedes-Benz and BMW have reduced the number of new model introductions annually because of the rise of automation and digitization. This trend will most likely continue, as there is less and less room for error when following mechanically guided assembly lines.
Productivity Will Decrease
One of the most significant risks associated with Industry 4.0 is the reduction in productivity that it can bring. According to research, 47% of the factory output of Fortune 500 companies is already created by AI and automation. This means that the amount of value that is created by each worker will likely decrease.
Even now, as you’re reading this, AI is improving the quality of products and services while decreasing the amount of human intervention required. Shortly, AI-powered automation could even result in fully automated manufacturing plants, removing the need for human workers altogether. A massive efficiency gain in the cost of significant job losses.
Outsource the most repetitive tasks
If you run a factory, then it’s most likely that you are outsourcing at least some of the most repetitive tasks. Although automation and AI have great potential to increase productivity, they can’t do everything. This part is outsourced to smaller companies.
Even now, there are many factory jobs that can be easily replaced by automation. For example, printing and assembling products like goggles or sunglasses, or inspecting and packing products for shipment, are often repetitive and routine tasks, which can be performed more efficiently by bots or software. As jobs become more digital and automatable, there will be greater possibilities for wage inflation, as there is less need and desire for human intervention.