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First came machines and steam power, then came mass production and electricity. Soon, it was computers and automation. Now we’re looking at a general trend of vast amounts of data exchange, in which robots and computers will redefine every sector across the globe. It’s been dubbed Industry 4.0.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is set to be an industrial era in which robots are connected remotely to computer systems. These systems will be able to control the robots through highly-intelligent algorithms. Industry 4.0 will lead to the creation of what has been dubbed the ‘smart factory’. Cyber-physical systems monitoring physical processes and creating virtual copies of the physical world to contextualise information. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key part of this system. IoT has the ability to collect data from machines and when humans interact with these machines. Government agency Callaghan Innovation, that supports businesses in New Zealand through technology, is trying to help companies embrace the changes. Industry 4.0 is all about the shift towards complete digitalisation. It involves cyber-physical systems being able to make their own decentralised decisions and becoming as autonomous as possible.
How does Industry 4.0 influence business?
Industry 4.0 will have dramatic impacts on businesses. Many companies will see the innovative technology serve their needs more efficiently than ever before. For example, technical assistance will be enhanced. Systems that can support humans in making decisions and solving problems, as well assisting humans with tasks, will become common place. The advancements in analytics mean that these systems will be able to scan through large sets of data and make decisions more quickly. Speed and the ability to handle big data, could mean lower costs for businesses. There might be less operating and personnel costs, as the systems, will be built into the processes to assist the human action.
However, the integration of Industry 4.0 will require initial investments. There will be other challenges, such as data security issues. Loss of human jobs is also a concern, as well as the possibility of major technical problems. Businesses will need to re-examine the way they work as we enter Industry 4.0. Fisher & Paykel Production Ltd (PML) is one New Zealand company that is helping to drive the digital revolution. It is building a strong alignment with Industry 4.0, by delivering ‘smart factory’ solutions to the manufacturing industry. PML’s newest offering is a software product called COSMOline, which will help companies produce better products and ensure more operational efficiency.
How to prepare for Industry 4.0
Educating your workforce in how to use the new technology is essential. It should be a priority for all companies in New Zealand. You will need to ensure a smooth transition for your employees and change any existing training programmes so they include new technologies.
Companies will need to identify areas of improvement and create a plan for how new technologies could be integrated into the organisation. Don’t take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Digital technology is developing every day and it can be easy to fall behind. Your plan should include how your team is going to maintain the processes of the new technology. Businesses will need to recruit to ensure there’s enough manpower to implement these systems. To compete in Industry 4.0, companies must flexible and agile.
Industry 4.0 promises speed, more data and some of the most exciting technologies around the world. Companies will be able to enhance their organisation and improve working environments. There will be significant headaches as companies adjust to the changes. But with the right preparation, businesses can create new opportunities for growth.
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