Industry 4.0: The New Era of Automation

Smart factories are the wave of the future. In some sense, you could say they are already here. With the way things are progressing, we might be seeing it in action everywhere and sooner than you think.

This is the reality of Industry 4.0: the world is now integrating computer automation more and more.  The application of integrated smart software and hardware is just the next logical step. We’re learning that although automatic machines have proven themselves useful, there’s still so much room for improvement.

It is the gaps in the present automation processes — the fruits of the third industrial revolution — that Industry 4.0 technologies seek to fill. This new era of technological development also promises to propel diverse industries towards higher production, improved efficiencies, and more opportunities for growth.

Let’s take a closer look at what Industry 4.0 is all about.

What Is Industry 4.0?

The best way to answer this question is to look back at the history of the digitization of manufacturing. It all began with the first industrial revolution, which introduced steam-powered machines into factories and farms. The second industrial revolution saw the rise of steel and electronics in factories, which in turn resulted in the advent of mass production. The third revolution improved on the limitations of analog and electrical machinery by introducing computer automation.

By this point (the late 1970s), the majority of machines in production lines were physically independent of human workers. This wasn’t because companies had extreme confidence in the performance of the third-generation automatons, however, but because of safety concerns. Automatic machines may have plenty of benefits to offer, but they also pose a danger to humans sharing their workspace. Most are big and cumbersome, and they move and operate exactly how they were programmed— they won’t stop for anything that gets in their way.

As innovators continued to develop technology, and with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and machine-to-machine communication (M2M), we’re now seeing yet another industrial revolution take place.

The natural progression from the third industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is the fulfillment of digitization as envisioned by industries across the board. We can sum up the definition of Industry 4.0 as the amalgamation of technology and business strategy. It is the key to unlocking any enterprise’s maximum manufacturing potential.

Collaborative Robots

Its goals are straightforward:

production volume and efficiency

Improve product quality

Reduce manufacturing costs

Open opportunities for expansion

The Distinction of Industry 4.0

In many respects, Industry 4.0 is an evolution of the previous industrial revolution. It optimizes the potential of computer automation by integrating the following:

The Internet of Things

More devices become connected to a central controller. This set-up allows manufacturers to gather more data and streamline and digitize their processes more efficiently.

Machine-to-Machine communication

The success of data exchange and autonomous automation (two of the primary characteristics of Industry 4.0) depends on the machines’ ability to communicate and their real-time responses with one another.

Big Data

Data is crucial to Industry 4.0. Thanks to Iot, data will come from many different sources, and manufacturers will need them to make sound, real-time decisions.

These three are instrumental in the creation of a smart factory. They’re not the sum of it, but they pave the way for machinery and robotics to connect with people and processes. Combined, all of these make up a cyber-physical system where digital and mechanical components merge in an industrial environment. This is the force behind Industry 4.0, the transformation of theory into practical applications.

Robotics in Digitized Manufacturing

Robots factor into discussions on Industry 4.0 because they execute its vision. Enterprises that aim to have a smart factory 4.0 must integrate robotics into its operations. More than the standard, computer-coded machines, however, they will need collaborative robots or “cobots” to achieve this goal.

Cobots are compatible and highly ideal for Industry 4.0. As the name suggests, these robots promote collaboration, not just between machines but with humans as well.

Regarding performance, industrial robots pass muster; but to fully realize Industry 4.0 manufacturing, enterprises need machines that can work seamlessly alongside humans, helping them work faster and produce higher-quality output.

Cobots: The Next Level of Automation

Human-robot collaboration is the next level of industrial and manufacturing automation. They are the future of work. They enhance human capabilities in the workplace, helping people work faster and better, which is one of the main goals of Industry 4.0.

The following qualities also make cobots ideal for this new era of automation:

Safe

Cobots, especially the ones we produce at Techman Robot Inc., are safe to work with. They are force limiting, which means they immediately stop when they encounter an object to avoid inflicting harm on both humans and machines.

Smart

Unlike their non-collaborative counterparts that rigidly follow programming code, cobots have cognitive features that help prevent on-site accidents. Our TM Series payloads, for instance, have sensors and a built-in vision system that enhances captured images, recognizes objects, and reads barcodes. Also, thanks to machine learning, cobots can be taught to perform very specific tasks while maintaining speed and precision.

Simple

Cobots offer ease of programming that is unlike what we’ve previously encountered in the world of automation. Comprehensive knowledge of programming code is no longer required, cobots can be easily operated by non-IT personnel. In this case, specialists (e.g., welders, CNC operators, scientists), not cold coding, can be the ones to “teach” orprogram a cobot to perform tasks.

With cobot integration, automation systems progress from purely mechanical to expert-guided. The human involvement merges business intelligence with technology, which again is the core principle of Industry 4.0. Cobots, therefore, are a stepping stone towards smart factory automation.

With Industry 4.0 and cobots elevating automation, we can all look forward to an exciting future. The best part is that both can benefit all industries of all sizes, not just industrial and manufacturing giants. In fact, cobots are already in action in foodservice, education, agriculture, and research and development.

The ball is now in the court of companies in every industry.Is adopting the new wave of technology going to be happening soon? A broad perspective on the applications of collaborative robots and the willingness to implement Industry 4.0 principles, perhaps, can go a long way.

Techman Robot Inc.’s expertise and knowledge is an asset to any enterprise. Our innovations can be your building blocks towards creating a smart factory and finding success in your niche. Let us help you in shaping the future of work in your company.