The term Industry 4.0 has become a buzzword for many people. In the 18th century, we saw the mechanisation with hydropower and steam, closely followed by mass production supported by assembly lines and electronic energy at the end of the 19th century. Following the increased use of electronics and information technology in the 1970s, industrial production is now experiencing its fourth crucial transformation through technological advancement. The underlying vision: With the connectivity of people and machines, entirely new production environments will surface.
In 1980, Henry Ford announced that every customer could paint his car in any colour he wanted, as long as that colour is black. Today, the available options are endless. Time has changed. And production possibilities have been completely transformed. With the rise of Industry 4.0, billions of machines, systems and sensors around the world will communicate with each other and exchange information that way. The objective is to enable companies to design their production more efficiently while also enhancing its alignment with market requirements.
Siemens is a prime example. With the assistance of PLM software, its products can be developed further and thoroughly tested in a virtual environment. The big difference to previous processes: Not a single screw needs to be turned. Thanks to the virtual product image, individual components can be integrated in the most diverse designs and tested throughout the entire development chain. This allows Siemens to place their products on the market 50% faster without compromising quality.
The factory of the future has already arrived, as shown by current digital planning methods, such as virtual reality. 3D printing possibilities and the utilisation of lightweight robots also highlight that Industry 4.0 has already become reality. And yet: People continue to play a vital role in the world of Industry 4.0. For instance, human intelligence is necessary to think ahead for all processes and procedures, and machines are controlled because a real person teaches them the software. People are and will always be the most important part of any company. Consequently, attention must be paid to the variation of existing jobs, as well as the fact that jobs of an entirely new nature are created. These challenges must be mastered today; they cannot be brushed aside as irrelevant. Thanks to the advances made, we can already observe that man and machine are eight times as productive as they were 20 years ago. We must utilise this potential and build on it.