The fourth industrial revolution
An industrial revolution is defined as a period of time in which an established manufacturing process transitions into a different process through the introduction of new, efficient techniques.
The first industrial revolution dated back to the 18th & 19th centuries and resulted in the transition of agrarian to urban, industrialised areas. This period is also associated with the development of the steam engine and the increase in the iron and textile industries.
The second industrial revolution occurred between 1870 and 1914; it caused expansion of existing industries and the introduction of new industries such as steel, oil and electricity. The ability to produce and provide electric power in mass production helped shape this time period.
The third industrial revolution occurred in the 1980s and referred to the advancement of digital technology; key influences include the personal computer and the internet. Many industry leaders have theorised that we are on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution, this will come in the form of automation being introduced into the manufacturing process. Emerging technology in robotics, 3D printing and nontechnology are helping to shape the factory floor.
The term “Industry 4.0” originates from the German government; it detailed plans to computerise the manufacturing process to allow efficiency and larger output. Definitions of Industry 4.0 vary, however, the official meaning released by the German Government is “the strong customization of products under the conditions of highly flexible (mass-) production.” It has also been characterised as the combination of physical, digital and biological processes with the aim of streamlining the manufacturing process and reducing human labour.
Industry 4.0 aims to develop the “smart factory”. These factories will use cyber-physical systems to monitor physical processes and adjust processes through making decentralised decisions. There are four key aspects required for a factory or system to be considered Industry 4.0:
- Interoperability – the communication of devices, sensors, machines and humans throughout the manufacturing process.
- Information Transparency – equipment uses sensors to replicate a virtual copy of the physical world to help contextualise information.
- Technical Assistant – helping humans to solve problems through presenting data and aiding humans complete tasks which are difficult or unsafe.
- Decentralised Decision-Making – automate the process through cyber-physical systems being capable of making simple decisions without human input.
With more and more factories introducing automated processes, Industry 4.0 may be upon us sooner than we expect. With clear benefits in efficiency and its ability to remove human error, Industry 4.0 will be welcomed by the manufacturing industry. Early adopters of automated cyber-physical systems are already reaping the benefits; it seems likely that others will soon adopt the benefits of co-robots.
The origins of ABP go back to 1966 when we were primarily a contractor to the UK Ministry of Defence. Since then, ABP has grown considerably and established a strong international reputation as innovators in product design, manufacturing and engineering. We pride ourselves on providing a full turnkey solution, developing concepts for our customers and working with them on their automation journey to deliver a bespoke solution exactly suited to their individual requirements.
As one of Britain’s leading providers, we have a wealth of experience in the automated manufacture, assembly, test and inspection of a wide range of products, from small household and medical devices to large scale suspension systems. Our expertise in Special Purpose Automation spans a wide variety of critical market sectors, including the most demanding applications.
We know that when it comes to process automation, one size does not fit all. That’s why we custom-design and develop solutions to suit your exact requirements, cost-effectively. This also explains why we are not affiliated with any distributor or stockist, ensuring that we deliver the optimum solution for you – whatever that may be.
If you would like to find out more about our automation services, click here or call on 01202 665 000.