By Milind Kulshreshtha
Industry 4.0 is gaining popularity due to rapid improvements made in the cyber-computing capabilities in the last few decades. The gap between the virtual and the real world has narrowed by advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and others so as to create an interoperable platform between Information Technology (IT) and actual physical operations. The term Industry 4.0 refers to the leveraging of cyber physical domains in association with latest technologies like AI, IoT, Cloud computing, AR, 3D printing etc. to enhance productivity. The Industry 4.0 is already influencing sectors like manufacturing, supply chain management, construction, shipping etc. and shall impact all the aspects of our day-to-day activities. It is truly considered to be a disruptive technology.
Industry 4.0 Evolution
The first industrial revolution (popularly called Industry 1.0) commenced in the 18th century with the use of steam generated power and mechanization of production. This was an important transition from manual labour based industry to the use of steam powered engines to increase human productivity. Textile industry was one of the early beneficiaries of this mechanization, with the steam engine powered weaving looms replacing the traditional handmade textile products for mass production.
A century later, the Second Industrial Revolution (Industry 2.0) began with advent of electricity and the assembly line production using the conveyor belts. The tipping point for the industry was when Henry Ford utilized the assembly line concept for mass production in automobile manufacturing. Further, Industry 3.0 was marked with innovation in the electronics world, when the memory-programmable controls and computers came into existence in the later part of 20th Century. The digital process automation enabled working of machines in a production process without human intervention. Use of robotics seen in manufacturing is one pertinent example here.
The fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 was triggered by the hi-tech innovations which brought the cyber physical systems together i.e. smart machines capable of exchanging real time information over the industrial internet of things (IIOT) for decision making process. Industry 4.0 is the ambit of various modern technologies like Cloud Computing, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data science, 3D printing, 5G, Drones, Communications etc., all leveraged for the ability to enhance the productivity in the manufacturing processes.
Industry 4.0 Technology
Today, machine-machine real time communication is possible over and above the previous human-machine interactions. The visualization and simulation techniques have seen a leap with increase of processing power of the chips. Various complex, customizable and modular products can be designed and directly communicated to the machines to follow. Thus, the embedded systems, factories and workers connect over the IoT to work together in a cyber- physical environment. As part of Industry 4.0, the robots when backed with AI and IoT are more flexible, and can make decisions in a factory environment. We have Cobots i.e. Collaborative Robots participating intrinsically with human activities, and their role is now more than being stand-alone machines doing repetitive tasks.
AR (Augmented Reality) technology is a step ahead of the popular Virtual Reality (VR) technique. It is a combination of both, the real world and the digital world brought together to enhance its virtual world applicability. With tools like Google Glass, the information is overlaid on the user’s field of view to allow him to gain more insight about an object they are looking at (like technical parameters, tolerance limits etc.).
In the Industry 4.0 scheme, various cyber-physical systems operate together and make corrective decisions on their own so as to enhance productivity. A timely alert for human intervention is generated informing the predicted cause and likely maintenance required so as to ensure an uninterrupted machine availability. The logic of distributed processing for regular tasks with a centralized decision making using an analytics framework is extensively utilized here. The smart sensor information emanating from the cyber-physical systems is processed on the cloud servers. In the cloud servers, the AI analytics comprising mathematical models run predictive algorithms to improve productivity and assists in guiding the process of manufacturing. The implementation of Industry 4.0 requires not only a horizontal factory-to-factory integration but a vertical Integration to connect the hierarchies of a production line. Overall, the intelligence of the smart factory is achieved with the convergence of technologies of information processing as part of a digital ecosystem.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum setup its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in India to work in collaboration with the GoI. The National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog is the designated nodal agency to interact with the World Economic Forum for elaborating the new policy frameworks for emerging technologies. The GoI has already made the enabling policy framework and set up incentives for infrastructure development on a PPP (Public Private Partnership) model. Samarth Udyog Bharat 4.0 (Smart Advanced Manufacturing and Rapid Transformation Hubs) under the Department of Heavy Industries (Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises) is the India’s initiative to push for Industry 4.0 implementation with an aim to propagate technological solutions to Indian manufacturing units by 2025 through steps like awareness programme, training, demo centers etc. The industry, academia and international cooperation in the field of technologies related to Industry 4.0 is the policy formulated by the government. India’s National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) has been promulgated which aims at enhancing the share of manufacturing in GDP to 25% and Industry 4.0 is the only way ahead to achieve this task.
(The author is CEO of AIKairos which runs the Industry 4.0 implementation and education programme in India. He can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)