The 9 Pillars of Industry 4.0: Explained

Industry 4.0 is built on 9 pillars of technological advancements that connect the physical, digital and biological worlds and make autonomous and intelligent systems possible. Let’s take a look at the nine pillars of Industry 4.0.

Pillars of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0

How to Define Industry 4.0: The Pillars of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)

What is Industry 4.0?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is the ongoing automation and data exchange in manufacturing and industrial processes, using modern smart technology.

Just as the previous three indutrial revolutions, which began in the late eighteenth century, brought about great changes to our lives. They were represented by the development of primitive agricultural life, which lasted about ten thousand years, to a life that depends on technology at the individual and societal levels.

Industry 4.0 will dramatically change the way we live, work and relate to one another.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution stems from the great achievements of the Third Revolution, especially the Internet, the enormous processing power, the ability to store information, and the unlimited possibilities of access to knowledge.

Today, these achievements open doors to limitless possibilities through major breakthroughs in emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, quantum computing, and blockchain and others.

The pillars of Industry 4.0 are the factors that allow us to evaluate whether a productive organization operates under the concepts of the fourth industrial revolution. What is expected from this new way of creating goods and services is that technology not only works as a simple tool, but is implemented as intelligent and collaborative man-machine systems.

In this article, we will discuss the 9 pillars if Industry 4.0 (the Fourth Industrial Revolution).

What are the Nine Pillars of Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is built on 9 pillars of technological advancements. These technological advances connect the digital and physical worlds and make autonomous and intelligent systems possible.

The following are the nine pillars of Industry 4.0 (the Fourth Industrial Revolution). Let’s take a look.

  1. Big data
  2. Autonomous Robots
  3. Internet of Things (IoT)
  4. Simulation
  5. Augmented Reality
  6. Additive manufacturing
  7. Cloud Computing
  8. Cybersecurity
  9. System Integration

These essential 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 can be summarized as follows:

1. Big Data Analytics

Big Data is a term that describes the large volume of data, both structured and unstructured, that we find every day in companies. 

What matters in big data analytics is what organizations do with the data. Using big data, massive amounts of data can be analyzed to get better ideas that lead to better decisions, allowing for optimization of various industrial processes, improving process quality and reducing energy consumption.

Big data analytics is the ability to process massive amounts of information and generate reports and conclusions that help gain a competitive advantage. 

This concept is the one used by banks, telephone services, internet (like Google), social networks … In this way, a company can know specific things about its customers, which it would be impossible to know in a conventional way.

Unifying an entire brand, the ideal would be to be able to collect as much information as possible from each branch, machinery and employee, generating reports in real time and creating self-management alternatives that point to continuous improvement.

2. Autonomous Robots

When we talk about autonomous robots, we mean collaborative robots or anthropomorphic robots, which have intelligence and are capable of working with humans autonomously, processing information from the environment and making decisions based on it. 

Although automation may seem futuristic, it was a reality in industries of all kinds and even before the fourth industrial revolution.

Industrial automation is about implementing adaptive technological elements, capable of working together with other machines and with human personnel, in a safe, reliable and completely autonomous way.

Industry 4.0 paves the way for computer-controlled and wheel-based, automatic guided vehicles (AGV). AGVs are vehicles that circulate autonomously in industry and move without a driver along previously defined routes or paths. In Industry 4.0, AGVs have greatly enhanced safety and lean manufacturing, thus improving overall productivity and profitability. 

Currently there are also autonomous intelligent vehicles (AIVs), which, in this case, are capable of learning routes, moving naturally and can avoid obstacles and people and work with them.

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, wireless networks, software, and other technologies to communicate and sense or interact with their internal or external environments.

The Internet of Things is an essential foundation lies in providing devices with the ability to communicate over the network  and collect and transfer data without human intervention.

IoT technology was initially born as a domestic technology: controlling lighting with a mobile phone, programming a coffee machine, television, and other devices via Wi-Fi.

This concept is being reused in industry, providing sensor technology and network access. The different machinery of a plant can send and receive information acting in a coordinated and autonomous way, connecting vehicles, articulated arms and different devices to a common connection.

Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is the extension and use of the internet of things in industrial sectors. IIoT is made up of a network of physical objects that use sensors and software to connect to a network and share data and to communicate with each other to facilitate optimization opportunities.

The IIoT facilitates the interconnection of machines and devices in logistical and industrial procedures in order to improve efficiency, performance and it facilitates individualized decision-making in real time during the production process.

Read here: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Digital Transformation

4. Simulation/ Digital Twin

A simulation is a computer program that mimics the operation of an existing or proposed system, analyzes a digital prototype of a physical model and gives information about the system being investigated. Using simulation software, you can observe an operation through simulation without actually performing that operation.

Simulation is one technology that has given its fair share in Industry 4.0. This technology helps in developing planning and exploratory models to improve the decision-making process as well as the operations of complex and intelligent production systems.

A digital twin is a virtual simulation of a real-time digital counterpart to a physical object or process. A digital twin uses real world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform. And it allows companies to better understand and improve the maintenance and performance of industrial products and systems.

Ultimately, simulation technology is not only about creating simulated virtual environments for the engineering department but also about the overall behavior of machines, processes and people in real time. In other words, simulation will allow the creation of laboratory factories in controlled and virtual environments to carry out tests and optimal configurations for in-plant manufacturing before even starting to produce the product.

With the digital twin, the configuration of the machines is tested virtually before a real change. This guarantees the quality and efficiency of production.

5. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality consists of mixing digital content with physical content to build mixed reality in real time. It has a compatibility with several applications and services in different fields that with the use of reality glasses can improve work procedures.

Augmented reality allows new designs or different situations to be superimposed on reality, such as being able to see what a building would look like after repair or what an old building would have looked like before it fell into ruin.

Augmented reality supports a great variety of uses and services in different branches such as medicine and education. 

Augmented reality technology can be used in infinitive ways to improve the process in Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is is the next industrial revolution where smart technologies such as Additive manufacturing and Augmented Reality (AR) and simulation play a crucial role in the manufacturing process.

Augmented reality technology allows product developers, executives, and employees to work together and create 3D models of new products and bring them to the assembly line,  ensuring that any manufacturing or quality issues are detected before the product reaches the consumer.

6. Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing

Additive manufacturing (AM) (or Additive layer manufacturing) is the industrial production name for 3D printing that enables the creation of lighter and stronger parts and systems. 

Additive layer manufacturing (ALM) deposits the material (plastic, metal, etc.) layer by layer in a controlled manner where it is needed. Computer-aided design software or 3D scanners are used to guide devices to deposit materials, layer by layer, in presise geometric shapes and according to digital 3D design.This is undoubtedly a breakthrough for the lowering material costs and waste by up to 90 percent.

Additive manufacturing plays an important role in meeting some of the most important requirements of Industry 4.0. This is a powerful technology that has revolutionized production processes and business models across numerous industries.

Additive manufacturing does not require cumbersome tools or mold revisions. Companies can design in one location and manufacture in another location closer to the customer, reducing the time and inventory costs and eliminating the need for warehousing and storage.

The main 3D manufacturing technologies are: fused deposition modeling (FDM), 3D FDM printing, material jetting and powder bed fusion (PBF).

7. Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is a general term that applies to all processes and services hosted in the cloud over the Internet. It is a system that allows computing services to be offered through a network, which is generally the Internet.

Within cloud computing there are three categories: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

With the help of cloud computing technology, you can manage all aspects of your business remotely. This is nothing more than an information technology managed through the Internet, which allows great flexibility and access to data, no matter where and when you want to access it.

Cloud computing allows the sustainable development of Industry 4.0. It facilitates significant reduction in costs, time and efficiency. More and more tasks related to the production of goods and services require the use of applications and data shared across different locations and systems beyond the limits of a company’s servers. 

Managing autonomous, self-functional, and commonly isolated environments through a single, highly accessible interface is a tempting idea, especially in global work environments.

8. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the key element that protects the systems and data of the company from failures and potential threats that could cause problems.

Cybersecurity is undoubtedly one of the fundamental pillars of the new industrial revolution. All the information, devices, resources and computer components connected to the same internet network must be carefully taken care of. Any manipulation of the data, no matter how minimal, can trigger critical consequences in operating results.

Industry 4.0 indicates that large parts of the company are associated with the security risks involved in the face of potential exposure to computer attacks.. More connected devices means a greater attack surface.

The role of Cybersecurity is crucial to protect this entire telematic structure. The successful implementation of cyber security measures consists, mainly, in the prevention of internal and external attacks in the industries but in a comprehensive way.

The human factor continues to be one of the main entry points for malware in organizations. For this reason, raising awareness and training staff on active protection is essential.

9. System Integration

One of the concepts of Industry 4.0 is to have a greater integration between the processes and sectors of the factories to exchange information more quickly and efficiently. In this way, decision making becomes faster in order to increase productivity, reduce losses, optimize resources and bring digital transformation within industries.

To better understand vertical and horizontal integration, you have to understand the hierarchy of systems within a company and the flow of data.

Systems for vertical and horizontal integration (Internally or externally) seeks harmony to manage integrated systems and have an automated platform in which everyone has access.

Let’s think about the growing need, internal and external, to manage integrated systems to have a single platform, where employees and collaborators have access to SCM, ERP, CRM, CMS, HRM. All of them independent systems but that must be connected in favor of an automation of tasks and guarantee of an integral management of the user experience.

Read Also: The Importance of Edge Computing in Industry 4.0

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