How will Industry 4.0 affect engineering?

The manufacturing and engineering fields are always in a constant state of flux, as new innovations, advances in technology and better ways of working come to the fore. But, over the past few years, the pace of change has accelerated thanks to the birth of Industry 4.0 and the impact it’s had on the sectors.

The rapid spread of breakthroughs in additive manufacturing, computer modelling, big data, automation, robotics and sensors have helped systems engineers achieve small, continuous and incremental improvements at every stage of the manufacturing process. It has resulted in huge gains in operational efficiency, predictive maintenance, output quality, site safety and sustainability.

As more and more manufacturers embrace the potential that Industry 4.0 applications and solutions have to offer, the factories of the future are closer than they’ve ever been. Here, we take a closer look at how Industry 4.0 is affecting engineering and what the future might hold.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the future of manufacturing and engineering. It’s the collective term for the combination of innovative technologies, applications and digital processes – such as the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, robotics and additive manufacturing – disrupting how manufacturers operate.

Industry 4.0 technologies and processes play a crucial role in creating the smart manufacturing facilities of the future. They are being implemented across the manufacturing industry, advancing the way systems are run and streamlining operations and maintenance.

As businesses and systems engineers embrace these advances, Industry 4.0 will continue to drive improvements in quality, safety, efficiency and sustainability.

This will enable them to respond quicker to changing consumer demands, build customer loyalty, increase their market share and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.

In short, if manufacturing and engineering companies want to get better at what they do, Industry 4.0 holds the key to unlocking the continuous improvements they need to achieve it.

What’s driving Industry 4.0?

Several innovative – yet relatively recent – technological advances provide the foundations on which Industry 4.0 continues to be built. These essential components, when utilised together, provide endless possibilities for manufacturers and engineers who want to fundamentally transform the way they operate:

IoT

IoT applications use advanced sensor and wireless technology to connect the manufacturing ecosystem and provide real-time insights, communications and data from interconnected equipment and devices. It means entire manufacturing systems and processes can be automated based on programmable logic, and controlled remotely. AI and machine learning applications help drive incremental improvements, while operational performance can be tracked and maintenance predicted, to reduce system downtime and improve safety.

Big data and analytics

A significant benefit of IoT applications is that they enable real-time data and information from every production stage to be captured, stored, and analysed. This helps drive continuous process improvement, enables predictive maintenance, and provides a solid evidence base for better, data-driven decision making.

Engineering simulation

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality applications allow systems engineers to simulate manufacturing processes and create realistic 3D images or virtualisations. These can help speed up product development, iron out any design flaws and shorten the time it takes to bring new products to market.

Additive manufacturing

Rapidly advancing new technologies, including 3D and 4D printing, allow engineers to quickly design and create products that either take too long to make using traditional manufacturing methods or cannot be manufactured at all.

Robotics and automation

Robotics and automation are playing an increasingly important role in most modern manufacturing facilities. They can help speed up manual manufacturing processes while ensuring consistent quality thresholds are met. They can also help make factories and production facilities safer, and more efficient and sustainable. Robotic and automotive solutions have revolutionised a wide range of industrial processes, from assembly, handling and conveyor lines to multi-level programmable production platforms.

Embracing Industry 4.0

While it’s true that Industry 4.0 applications will replace some jobs, they will lead to the creation of many more. Most of these jobs will require highly skilled, creative and innovative people with the knowledge and expertise to design, develop, implement, manage and maintain Industry 4.0 solutions in businesses of all sizes.

As the manufacturing and engineering sectors continue to shift towards the smarter, leaner and more sustainable ways of working enabled by Industry 4.0, many existing workers will need to be redeployed and retrained to fill any potential skills gaps.

Industry 4.0 isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s here for the long haul. Getting ahead of the game is essential, as Industry 4.0 will continue to grow and become more commonplace in even the smallest factories and production facilities. So, if you’re ready to your manufacturing processes smarter, safer and more sustainable, Banelec can help. Give us a call today to find out how.