The fourth industrial revolution
In the recent decade we could observe a nearly complete digitalization of almost all dimensions of our daily life. Affordable personal computers were the base of that process; however, the change in the way we live today was significantly accelerated by another device – the Smartphone. The ability to be continuously connected to the internet from any part of the world allowed us to reach across the globe faster than ever in a simple and plain way. Digital communication and services are nowadays taken for granted and it seems tough to imagine how life could possibly look without them.
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This disruption forever changed not only us but also enterprises which needed to adjust their business models to the rapidly changing world. Automatization, which was industries last revolution, left us with efficient high volume production system. The current tendency for product customization and high variability coming from demand oriented, flexible production showed that our present way of looking at manufacturing might not be enough and we need to make another leap to match growing expectations. Industry 4.0 is just a catchy phrase which tells us, that for manufacturing time to change has finally come.
What is industry 4.0 all about?
If to be answered with one word, it would be about connectivity. Of course there is more into that but connecting industrial machinery to each other and to the cloud is one of the main pillars of industry 4.0. Information will flow with a broad stream from factories to the cloud. There, data will be respectively clustered by various algorithms and finally processed to obtain synthetic and useful information that might be of interest to many.
On one side, users will obtain great insight into their ,manufacturing systems, knowing how orders of their customers are being processed, what is lagging, what is lacking, what the health condition of their machines is and what are the upcoming actions to be taken in order to keep things going smoothly.
Where will all this data come from?
There are numerous potential sources of data. In modern manufacturing systems there are already thousands of data samples traveling through a closed internal network infrastructure via a number of different industrial communication links. These data samples come from various independent sensors or internal sensors of machines.
Straight to the cloud
The goal of industry 4.0 is to redirect parts of these data streams through an internet gateway straight to the cloud (with obvious security protocols and respecting privacy rules), where they will be elaborated by some powerful big data algorithms. Not only whole manufacturing systems are a good source of information – any standalone machine, device or sensor can be directly connected to its cloud storage, forming the so called Internet of Things (IoT).
Reading about industry 4.0 one can think that in the fully automatized and smart manufacturing of the future, human being has been completely removed from the equation. Human, with its excellent physical agility and unprecedented perception and decision making skills is going to be one of the key element of the next generation of manufacturing systems. Operators will work hand in hand with machines, sharing their physical space with robotic arms. In order for this cooperation to be successful it will be essential to exchange information between humans and machines.
Industry 4.0 and thin clients
This sort of communication requires a flexible interface and one great example are Human - Machine interface panels run with a thin client. These lightweight, cost efficient and yet functional devices allow user to pass their communication through a touch panel to a server and quickly receiving feedback from it. User can send commands, failure reports or anomalous behavior, request for assistance or ask for instructions or technical documentation required to smoothly complete his tasks. Analyzing cloud stored history of his requests may be used to improve his working environment and personalize given tasks.
Embracing Smart Manufacture
They are really easy to set up, configure, as well as to manage, characteristics that are becoming more and more important in factories nowadays. Sensors ensure the smooth passage of operations. The industrial upgrades mirror how we improve our daily life. The sensors function similarly, but extended into machines, they will become the driver of the productivity of this era.