There is growing discussion on the impact that Industry 4.0 will have on many sectors – and Australia’s preparedness for the changes it will bring. Here we explore what Industry 4.0 is; how businesses can get ready for it; and some of the opportunities it presents for technology-enhanced industries like construction, mining, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.
First coined by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, “Industry 4.0” describes the fourth industrial revolution – a period of unprecedented change affecting how we “live, work and relate to one another”.
Like other industrial revolutions that came before it, Industry 4.0 is driven by technological advance and new ways of working. However, the fourth industrial revolution will be uniquely characterised by the rapid pace of change; the fusion and integration of many existing technologies; and the overlap they create between our physical and biological worlds.
Harnessing Industry 4.0 opportunities could have wide reaching benefits across industry, including:
Safer and more efficient, reliable and flexible industrial production
Enhanced project planning and scheduling across industries
Improved productivity and lower operating costs
The creation of lighter, stronger mechanical parts and construction materials
Industry 4.0 also has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of many industries, and to reverse the environmental damage caused by previous industrial revolutions.
Machines that detect when new parts or maintenance are required; automated quality control on production output; houses built entirely by robots; and entire workforces connecting and collaborating remotely – these scenarios could all soon be commonplace.
What’s clear is that Industry 4.0 will shape many industries, in many significant ways. Here’s a snapshot of the technologies we might expect to see front and centre.
Smart sensors and telematics:
Technology that enables better ways of working will be a defining feature of Industry 4.0. Telemetry sensors can be embedded in every type of equipment imaginable – supplying information to help us work smarter, faster and more efficiently.
Data and analytics:
As technology increasingly connects us with better quality data, it also creates opportunities for businesses to do more with this information. Coates Hire’s tool tracking capability already allows customers to make smarter equipment hire and scheduling decisions, based on location data and tool utilisation rates.
Robotics and automation technologies:
This is another important space to watch – particularly in mining, manufacturing and construction where automation can dramatically improve safety and efficiency. In construction we are already seeing mobile construction robotics technology becoming mainstream.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR):
AI and VR technologies are not new, but they are being applied in new and increasingly innovative ways. AI and VR can bring new insight to complex processes to improve operational efficiency. These technologies also have the potential to transform safety culture and performance.
This technique may now feel a little less ‘space age’ – but its impact should not be underestimated. As a manufacturing technique 3D printing enhances the speed and cost of production. In healthcare it can quickly and more affordably produce prosthetics and replicas of other patient-specific body parts. The emergence of 3D concrete printing could also revolutionise construction.
It’s important to have a clear strategic roadmap for digital investment in Industry 4.0. Consider which technologies align with your strategic needs; which technologies will help you to operate safely and more efficiently; and which technologies will help you to grow?
Up-skilling and investing in people will be critical to the success of businesses in Industry 4.0. This means having the right people and skills to leverage technology, and to gain competitive advantage from digital investment.
Fostering a culture of innovation and critical thinking will also play an important role in Industry 4.0. Businesses must be agile and able to work responsively to embrace new technology opportunities.
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