by Spencer Nguyen • December 20, 2022
Modern smart technologies are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, and it holds the promise to completely change the supply chain and manufacturing sectors as we know them.
Even if you’re not familiar with the term Industry 4.0 yet, you’re probably aware of the components that form the basis of this new methodology. The Internet of Things (IoT), embedded software, and microservice architecture are making all of this possible.
What is the Industry.4.0 digital transformation, and how will it impact your business? First, let’s dig into a history lesson to remind you how we got here.
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The first industrial revolution took place in the mid-to-late 1800s and formed the basis for nearly all technological innovations that have come since. The major innovation of the first industrial revolution was utilizing water and steam power to make factories and production possible.
The second revolution came with the introduction of electricity and saw the birth of assembly lines and mass production. And in more recent history, the adoption of computers and automation techniques formed the third industrial revolution.
Now, Industry 4.0 will be defined by the smart factory.
The addition of computers and other new technologies to manufacturing and supply chain logistics was just as revolutionary as any previous industry innovations. Businesses that utilized hardware and software to at least partially automate their manufacturing and shipping processes gained a significant advantage over their competitors. The difference between Industry 3.0 and Industry 4.0 can be seen in the rapid technological changes we’ve all witnessed in the last couple of decades.
In that time, we’ve seen the introduction of smartphones, broadband internet becoming more widespread, and more connected devices than ever. Although it wasn’t that long ago, it can be challenging to remember a time before mass digitization. Back then, you didn’t have a device in your pocket that made the world’s collected knowledge available at any time. Now it’s pretty common for you to control the lights and appliances in your house with that device, amongst the many conveniences that smart devices and always-on internet connectivity have brought to the world.
Industry 4.0 takes the idea of all those smart devices and applies it to a manufacturing environment — the smart factory. Also known as the Industrial Internet of Things, a smart factory is made up of a combination of the Internet of Things, the Internet of Systems, and cyber-physical systems. If some of those terms are a bit unfamiliar, here’s a quick set of definitions for you.
The Internet of Things, commonly known as IoT, describes groups of devices with processing ability, software, an internet connection, and other technologies that work together to bring new functionality. Your smart thermostat and doorbell camera are part of the Internet of Things at home. IoT tends to refer to the network, or private networks, of smart devices sharing data and working together.
The Internet of Systems is a concept that takes things a step further by automating processes using IoT smart devices. A manufacturing floor with several smart devices working together to automate steps of the manufacturing process is an example of the Internet of Systems concept.
A cyber-physical system is also known as an intelligent system. It’s essentially a computer system that performs a task that’s controlled or monitored in real-time by computer-based algorithms. Self-driving cars are probably the most famous example of cyber-physical systems. The technology powering these systems is generally known as artificial intelligence (AI), although AI is a term that can be applied to a wide range of machine-learning techniques.
It was not that long ago that manufacturing organizations were just starting to implement computer systems on their shop floors. The thought of fully-automated AI on your production line can seem like a dream at this point. But many organizations are slowly starting to incorporate Industry 4.0 practices, and here’s how they’re doing it.
Servers have accumulated a vast amount of information in the years since Big Data took the stage. Looking to the Industry 4.0 future provides an ideal time to evaluate your systems and identify the data points in your operations. What’s working for you? Where could you stand to use more information? Adding sensors that automate the collection of quality control (QC) data like moisture levels, temperature, and weight can bring value immediately while laying the foundation for a complete IoT implementation one day.
A smart and connected supply chain can improve your operations right now. If you experience delays in shipments, is this still handled manually? If so, that’s an opportunity for connected systems to step in and automatically adjust manufacturing schedules and shipping dates.
While self-driving vehicles may not be an everyday thing on our roads, manufacturing facilities and shipping departments are already using the technology. Automated trucks, autonomous cranes, forklifts, and other smart equipment are available to help streamline processes and avoid downtime.
Robotics used to be something that only the most technically advanced companies were using. Now, robots are pretty common in many manufacturing scenarios for predictive maintenance and other uses. Amazon warehouses utilize robots to pick products and prepare them for shipping, but robotics can be applied to companies of all sizes.
The technology behind 3D printing has vastly improved in the past decade. Advances in the quality of materials used in 3D printing have allowed the tech to be used for actual production instead of just prototyping.
Most companies have embraced the cloud in some form or another by this point. Early on in the cloud revolution, some IT organizations had concerns about the safety of company data and intellectual property not being hosted on-premises. Those concerns are now long gone, as cloud security has proven to be as good or better. The convenience and cost savings associated with the cloud are too hard to ignore at this point. If you’re not a cloud-first organization yet, it’s time to start making the move.
The cloud ecosystem is the key component of the Internet of Things in general and Industry 4.0 specifically. Connected devices and services have made the cloud concept next-level. The more company data you move into the cloud, the more data your IoT devices and autonomous equipment can access.
The microservices architecture is the process of developing software on top of the service components that smaller applications provide. Through the use of APIs to share data and services, complete web service applications can be built and maintained more easily than with the traditional monolithic architecture.
The web of today, mobile applications, and all of our smart devices are all made possible by microservices. To create a path toward smart manufacturing, your internal developers should be looking at this methodology if they aren’t already. Apps that utilize microservices can share real-time data with any other system that can use APIs. Embracing this development model may be the most important step you can take toward preparing your organization for Industry 4.0.
To ensure your company’s future competitiveness, start looking at modernizing your production processes. New business models in the manufacturing industry depend on real-time data. As cloud computing and digital technologies change business models, sharing data via APIs becomes more important than ever.
You need to have an API strategy to make the most of a microservices architecture. And to have a good strategy, you need an API management platform. This is where DreamFactory can help — and prepare your company for Industry 4.0.
DreamFactory’s hosted iPaaS API management platform brings a new level of simplicity and optimization by generating database APIs instantly. We also offer powerful cybersecurity options that take hours or minutes to do what a typical backend engineer may do in a month.
We can also help you simplify workflows and get all the advantages of a secure REST API on top of your microservice applications.
If you have any questions about how all this works, get in touch today. Contact DreamFactory and learn more about what we can do to help you make the right choices for your business. Schedule your free 14-day trial of our API management platform today.
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