Meeting consumer needs with the fourth industrial revolution.

Industry 4.0 is far more than just another IT sector buzzword. The Internet of Things (IoT) and other digital technologies could totally reshape the way items and products are made, providing consumers with fundamental changes in choice, consumption and ownership.  

The term “Industrie 4.0” was first used by the German Government to promote the concept of computerized manufacturing and underline how digital solutions are powering change not seen since the first Industrial Revolution. The industrial internet has gone far beyond optimizing production technologies, it will revolutionize services, opening up the flow of data through the design, production and supply chain to transform industry and better address the needs of customers and suppliers. 

Driving digital transformation

The industrial sector, including factories and the production and supply chain, will benefit from digital transformation, connecting people, processes and machines. Key technologies include IoT, big data, mobility solutions, digital workspaces, hybrid networks and end-to-end cybersecurity.

The digitalization of factories, products and people provides an enormous opportunity to drive productivity and create new business models, but it requires substantial initial commitment and investment.

According to a survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), industrial companies invest an average of 3.3 per cent of their annual revenues in industrial internet solutions. This equals nearly 50 per cent of planned new capital investments.

By 2020 it is estimated that European industrial enterprises will spend 140 billion Euros annually in Industry 4.0 applications across the entire value chain. Also by 2020 more than 80 per cent of companies will have digitized their value chain, providing an 18 per cent increase in efficiency over the same time span.

The role of the hybrid network

Hybrid networks play a key role in Industry 4.0, by bringing together internet, satellite, MPLS, global cellular networks, M2M connectivity, Wi-Fi and LANs for global and local connections. These seamless hybrid networks provide an easy way to deploy and scale secured, regulated or bespoke solutions that fit the “physical production area” in the case of radio technologies in manufacturing, for example.  

While 4G and existing mobile technologies already provide tremendous connectivity potential in this arena, 5G is set to offer a future-proof, standardized and sustainable network, capable of handling new applications and the explosion of connected objects and people.

Pushing up productivity

Enhanced connectivity of devices and new applications has the net benefit of boosting productivity whilst improving employee well-being and safety.

By analyzing data sent by objects, manufacturers can monitor and predict events. For example, with predictive maintenance, organizations can achieve better planning of maintenance schedules, reduced downtime of machines and lengthened machine life spans. Quality of service is also improved via better information flow.

Factory managers that analyze data gathered by sensors can go a step further and drastically improve overall performance of manufacturing facilities by remotely monitoring and adjusting machine performance.

Legacy devices, such as walkie-talkies, can be replaced with more efficient apps to boost productivity and enhance workplace safety for lone-worker protection when a solo employee has a problem.

Workers will be able to access working tools at all locations in the plant and benefit from dedicated business applications to monitor the production or service process, whilst having the mobility of tablet access both on-site, on-location and at home.

Industry 4.0 will also enable enterprises to have direct communication with customers and users on products.  John Deere, the agricultural, forestry and machinery company, uses augmented reality (AR) applications to help customers test and provide early feedback on designs to speed up the design process and ensure they are meeting user requirements.  

Focus on security

This increased connectivity makes security vital given the types of software used within factories and the huge increase in automation.  The more connected devices there are, the greater the security risk. 

Software in factories has historically not been easy to update as it is running 24/7, and there are PCs in factories that are never re-booted as it interrupts production. But this is changing: new hybrid networks are secure by design and capable of handling varied exchanges between people and machines. In addition, secure access is being provided to production data on tablets and smartphones and systems are opening up to third parties such as maintenance service providers. In the Industry 4.0 era, enterprises must adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity.

As the industrial landscape evolves, companies must decide how to invest in Industry 4.0 and identify which technologies will help them drive maximum benefits. But remember the journey to Industry 4.0 is one of both cultural and technological change. Key to success will be understanding how these technologies interplay with workers to drive innovation.  

Read more about how Orange Business is connecting smart objects to business applications here. Orange also recently outlined its vision for Industry 4.0 at Hannover Messe 2016.