"We must progress to Industry 4.0", "Industry 4.0 is great!" - but what exactly is Industry 4.0? There are talks about developing and expanding Industry 4.0 for Malaysia, even mentioned in the Budget 2019. We’ve made it easy for you to understand, read on to find out.
Understanding the Industrial Revolutions
Industry 4.0 is fourth in the line of industrial revolutions. The first industrial revolution was the mechanization of the manufacturing and processing industry, utilizing water and steam power. The second revolution saw the coming of the assembly line and electricity, enabling mass production. The third then followed through the rise of automation, providing more efficient processes and manufacturing – what we commonly see today in most factories.
What is Industry 4.0?
We are now slowly moving past the third industrial revolution and are advancing into Industry 4.0. Unlike the more drastic changes from between the previous industrial revolutions, however, Industry 4.0 simply takes the automation and machinery from the third and makes it better. How? Through smart systems using data and machine learning; the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI.
The third industrial revolution already benefits a lot from the use of computers and automation, creating more efficiency in most industries. Industry 4.0 comes into the picture with the introduction of connectivity between these machineries. This will allow for even more advanced automation, to the point where factories can run well without any human – a smart factory, essentially. And no, we’re not yet at the level of Skynet from the Terminator series.
That sounds too complicated lah, can simpler anot?
Can, of course can! In a nutshell, Industry 4.0 is a “smart” industry that can operate efficiently with less human-error by being connected. Picture running an entire factory remotely with only a few persons (it’s a bit of an exaggeration).
To better elaborate on a “smart” factory, let’s use the example of two factories: One is a smart factory and the other a conventional factory.
In the conventional factory, there is a large human factor at play for each of the processes. Right from the managing of the materials to the final product that lands on the customer’s hands. We cannot fully eliminate human involvement (not yet?), but that very involvement can reduce efficiency because of human-error.
For example, a staff may miss out on checking of a factory’s materials supply, causing a material shortage. This in turn causes a slowdown on the production of products. In the assembly line itself, most factories have factory workers that collect and assemble the products. However, this increases the possibility to risk of human injury and misassembled items.
With the “smart” factory addressing the same issues as the conventional factory, a lot of the human-error is reduced. Systems can be set up to measure material supplies; if the materials drop to a certain level, it can automatically order more or inform the operations management that it is running low.
Automated assembly lines using robots and other automation can almost eliminate the risk of human injury and reduce the percentage of misassembled products. An entirely connected manufacturing plant would be able to manage itself and adjust the production lines to the present situation, potentially saving time and money.
Imagine all that of the smart factory being managed by only a few persons through cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things. Using big data and connectivity to manage automated industries with superior efficiency and low wastage – that is Industry 4.0.
Is Industry 4.0 already in effect?
Yes! Industry 4.0 is already being achieved in several major countries. Countries like the United States, China, Japan and even our neighbour, Singapore has already advanced to Industry 4.0 under names like "Smart Manufacturing", "Made in China 2025", "Industrial Value Chain Initiative", and "Smart Nation Programme" respectively.
In fact, Amazon has already embraced Industry 4.0 through the use of robots in their warehouse. Watch the video below:
In fact, everyone's favourite building-brick toy, LEGO, was already producing their plastic bricks in complete automation for years! You can read about it here: Gizmodo's Exclusive Look-Inside of LEGO's Factory. Everything from the raw plastic granules to the final product into its packaging is completely automated.
Challenges of Industry 4.0 Malaysia
Our nation is slowly advancing towards Industry 4.0. The Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) tabled the the National Policy for Industry 4.0 to help advance the countries' businesses and factories. This will ideally help the local industries to increase productivity, efficiency, quality, and to also develop new skills and talent with the people.
According to MITI, Malaysia is currently somewhere in between Industry 2.0, which is mass production of items, and Industry 3.0, automation. It is a slow process that is facing many challenges such as the lack of awareness and understanding of Industry 4.0 and also the lack of standards and skillsets.
You can read more about MITI's National Policy on Industry 4.0 here too: Industry 4WRD
What do you think about Industry 4.0? Will Malaysia be able to implement it and will it help us advance as a nation? Let us know!