Industry 4.0 – digitalization enters the scene
This term goes back to a research project within the German government’s high-tech strategy framework and refers to the concept of digitalized industrial production. Modern intelligent communication and information systems should be integrated into industrial production so that production is autonomous mainly and self-organized. In this process, plants, logistics, products, and people are networked so that all phases of the production process are automatically optimized. The term is derived from the idea that, historically, intelligent digitalization could represent a fourth stage of the industrial revolution after mechanization, mass production, and automation.
At present, we are in the midst of another industrial revolution. Many automation devices and other components involved in production are being networked in the best possible way. The fact that the systems are networked creates many new possibilities for coordinating the systems with each other. The systems can exchange information and data with each other, which is necessary for ideal operation. This enables production to optimize and control itself more and more. Networking is not limited to certain areas, but the product is included in this process. The best examples of this are smartphones or computers. These can send error reports or protocols directly to the manufacturer, which influences future production, as errors can be eradicated in this way. Machines can exchange their status with other production systems. The customer is increasingly integrated into these processes so that customer wishes can be optimally taken into account. The change towards Industry 4.0 leads to more flexibility, higher efficiency, more competitive advantages, improvements in working conditions, and better environmental compatibility.
The goal of Industry 4.0 and thus of future development is the so-called batch size 1. This makes it possible to produce individual or unique products for the customer at costs that are otherwise only possible in mass production.
Industry 4.0 is a future strategy that should make companies competitive in a digitalized world. Individual concepts and solutions are intended to provide various entrepreneurial advantages in the process:
- High flexibility in production: production steps can be optimally and quickly coordinated and adapted
- Customer-centered working: Production processes are adaptable and can be individualized
- Optimized processes: fast data acquisition and evaluation enable optimal machine utilization and logistics and resource-saving work