The complex nature of manufacturing and the related processes has meant it is a little later to the digital party. While the disruption of industries like banking, motoring and entertainment is well under way, manufacturing has a much smaller percentage of companies that have made the transition to industry 4.0.
However, now the substantial benefits are becoming more apparent, those leading the way are at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution that will change the food and beverage industry substantially.
What is industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 (representative of the fourth revolution in manufacturing) is the name given to the latest advancements in manufacturing. These include the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is connecting systems in new and productive ways. This produces extra data about equipment performance, process efficiency, supplies, and raw materials. All of this data can be analysed to help manufacturers to optimise the manufacturing process in an informed and intelligent way.
Other technologies, such as integrated control systems and 3D printers help with time consuming and costly aspects of manufacturing, such as maintenance, research, and design. All of these technologies together create a smart manufacturing environment where productivity and efficiency can be maximised.
As a general rule, to be considered industry 4.0 a factory must show interoperability between machines, devices, and people. It must produce transparent information in a relevant context. Decisions must be made in a de-centralised way, making the process as autonomous as possible. The systems must support humans in making decisions and solving problems, often before they occur, and perform tasks that are too unsafe or difficult for humans to perform.
Manufacturing automation and robotics is nothing new. However, the last generations of automation products were generally only capable of completing pre-programmed repetitive tasks. The always-connected IIoT and the advancements with Intelligent AI allow them to perform tasks that are far more complicated. They are now able to adapt to various conditions, share invaluable lessons, and collaborate with coworkers.
How will this filter down to the person in the street?
There are two factors people should be aware of as more food and beverage manufacturers make the transition to industry 4.0. The first is the misconception that robotics and automation means a reduction in jobs. A government review predicted that the adoption of industry 4.0 over the next decade would produce a net gain of 175,000 highly skilled jobs. The increases in efficiency would is estimated to be worth approximately £455 billion. This is good news for manufacturing, for the British workforce, and for our economy as a whole.
The second aspect is how it will impact the average consumer. As adoption increases, we should see benefits for the consumer creep in during the coming decades. Food production will become much more uniform, ensuring consistency of quality and weight of our food. The increased profits and efficiency for manufacturers could also in part translate to better value for the consumer.
This is happening now
Industry 4.0 is proving to be so beneficial that any challenges are more than worth the investment required to overcome them. Industry 4.0 is here to stay. The only unknown is how quickly it will reach mass adoption. Those manufacturers who have already adopted these technologies will be rewarded for their bravery and foresight, while those who avoid the transition for too long risk being left behind.