The 4 Design Principles of Industry 4.0

By: Simon Spencer

August 24, 2021

4 Design Principles of Industry 4.0

What are the design principles of industry 4.0? With the seemingly limitless potential of connected cyber-physical systems, machines, and people, it can be hard to pinpoint the foundational pillars of this quickly expanding revolution. If setting out on your digital transformation journey, it will be useful to understand the technologies and foundational pillars that make digitizing your operation possible.

Let’s explore how this revolution came into being and dive into the fundamental design principles of Industry 4.0.

What Is the Meaning of Industry 4.0?

What is the meaning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Revolutions typically bring to mind powerful social movements where an existing form of government is overthrown in favor of something more desirable. Industrial revolutions, however, don’t work like that. Instead, each industrial revolution is a breakthrough into a new realm of possibilities while still using the principles of the ones that preceded it.

As we previously discussed in, What is IoT, IIoT & Industry 4.0?, the 4th Industrial revolution is about interconnecting all hardware, software, and people to create an array of continuously pouring live data from your entire factory network. In this way, manufacturers are supercharging the practices of past revolutions while creating new and improved operations that match the current market and economy.

Revolutions mean change and change brings risk, difficulty, and sacrifice. But this is needed to prepare for a new future.

Whether some adopt Industry 4.0 or not, we are in the midst of another revolution. One in which the most important economic force in the world, manufacturing, is experiencing a massive transformation. And this change stands to impact not just the methods and technology used to make things, but also the people involved.

Industrial Revolutions Throughout History

Just for a little history and perspective, let’s start with the

Second industrial revolution

Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, the First Industrial Revolution would cause manufacturing processes to experience incredible modernization. The use of machine and chemical manufacturing processes began to revolutionize how things were made. Production quickly moved from hand-craft methods to the use of machines powered by water and steam. This mechanization impacted lives in the 1700s and 1800’s dramatically by improving the standard of living for much of the modern world.

Next came the Second Industrial Revolution which saw the build-out of a large rail network, massive steel, and iron production, and most importantly, the beginning of electrification. Many of today’s most relied upon technologies saw their birth during this period which began during the last part of the 19th century through to the early 20th century. This includes the internal combustion engine, the assembly line, and mass production techniques.

Operator on a smart factory floor

Then we had the Third Industrial Revolution, which began in the 1950s. This revolution saw the birth of the internet and nuclear energy, and the automation/digitalization of the manufacturing industry through the use of computer-controlled systems and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers).

While automation continues to grow, we are again on the cusp of the next industrial revolution - Industry 4.0.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is really the birth of the smart factory, where machine automation becomes highly integrated with data. Within an Industry 4.0 framework, everything in your facility is connected and produces valuable information. This data is then analyzed to give accurate and in-depth knowledge about your facility that can be used by people or cyber-physical systems to make decisions and enact improvements.

The Key Technologies of Industry 4.0

Understanding the design principles of Industry 4.0 requires an understanding of the technologies that enabled this revolution to begin. This new integration of data within Industry 4.0 is characterized by 3 key technologies.

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)

Cyber-physical systems are intelligent computer systems that control and monitor mechanisms through computer-based algorithms. Hardware and software are so deeply intertwined that their relationship and interaction changes based on the context and needs of the production line.

This enables CPS environments to experience machine learning where the cyber-physical system takes the data from the production line, identifies patterns, and enacts procedures and decisions. All without the need for human intervention or additional programming.

Within Industry 4.0, these cyber-physical systems integrate and communicate through the internet as well as its users.

Internet of Things (IoT)

In simplest terms, the Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as the connection of any electronic device to the internet. These “things” connect to the internet and create an advanced network of interconnected cyber-physical systems that communicate in real-time. This enables products and machines to seamlessly cooperate and display knowledge and data that would have otherwise been lost or unavailable.

Progressively, more of today’s technology is being integrated with IoT technology, such as vehicles, appliances, buildings using embedded electronics, sensors, and software that enables data collection and sharing across physical devices.

Cloud Computing

Internet-based computing, also called Software as a Service (SaaS), provides shared computer processing resources and data on demand. This means factors like data storage and computing power are handled separately and do not need to be managed by the user.

Think of visiting a website to check your email. Your computer is not storing your emails and other data. This is all stored by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. Additionally, the computing power that manages your email is not handled by your computer either. You are simply using the User Interface (UI) and the website is safely and securely running the application.

Being that our work instruction software is a browser-based solution, we know first-hand how convenient and easy it is to step into Industry 4.0. Just open VKS in your browser and start creating job guides. Share them instantly so that all users have access to the most up-to-date information and methods.

The 4 Design Principles of Industry 4.0

Although adopting Industry 4.0 in an operation may seem like a far too daunting task for some manufacturers, there are 4 key benefits that should convince leaders to begin the transition. Let's go through the 4 design principles of Industry 4.0 technology and address what those benefits are.

1. Interoperability

This first principle is Interoperability. This is the ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT) and then make use of that information to function and execute improvements. The first step is to connect your Smart Tools, sensors, machines, and workers together to create advanced data collection resources. With this, you gain widespread visibility into your operation and capture in-depth and accurate knowledge.

design principles of Industry 4.0

The next step within interoperability is to integrate this data with your LMS, MES, ERP, or other smart factory solution and analyze the data in real-time. This creates a network of interconnected data-generating points that can be accessed anytime anywhere. This principle dwells on the technology's ability to provide enhanced information for future decision-making.

The interoperability of Industry 4.0 not only gives manufacturers access to vast amounts of data and accurate operational knowledge, but it also gives it to them at blazing speeds, even down to the second.

2. Information Transparency

Transparency in this context is used to describe how easy it is to observe the actions taken and the information being stored. With this in mind, Information Transparency is an essential design principle of Industry 4.0 because the information is crystal clear and easy to access, providing a fast and powerful method to extrapolate knowledge.

In other words, embracing this industry 4.0 design principle helps you monitor processes on the shop floor and allows management to instantly adjust and optimize for higher efficiency. The more information that is being collected, the greater visibility you gain into your operation, and the greater the ability you have to make effective and long-lasting improvements. Essentially, we don’t want this information hidden from the people who need it the most. It needs to be transparent.

3. Technical Assistance

Firstly, technical assistance is the ability of cyber-physical systems to support humans by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensibly so that making informed decisions and solving urgent problems on short notice is simple and effective. Work instruction software is a prime example of Technical Assistance being used to support people with visually interactive procedural guides.

Secondly, technical assistance is also the ability of cyber-physical systems to physically support humans by conducting a range of tasks that are unpleasant, too exhausting, or unsafe for their human co-workers. Think about robots within factories now and how they decrease workplace-related injuries.

Technical assistance is helping manufacturers understand their data in faster and more powerful ways while taking on the more arduous and dangerous tasks on the shop floor.

4. Decentralization of Decisions

The decentralization of decisions stems from the ability of cyber-physical systems to make choices independent of people. Instead of requiring workers to painstakingly watch for variances or oversee material needs, the cyber-physical system will manage these issues autonomously through a decentralized network of IoT and cloud computing.

Naturally, this leads to machines and systems that can take action and perform their tasks with little to no human intervention, making factors like problem-solving, calibration, adjustments, and notifications a fast and autonomous system. Only in the case of exceptions, interferences, or conflicting goals are tasks delegated to a higher level. A decentralized system is also highly adaptable and scalable which determines how efficiently you can respond to industry changes.

Industry 4.0 Turns Obstacles into Opportunities

Revolutions can be some of the most disruptive change mechanisms. This is especially true within the industrial sector. But without them, where would we be? As with all other revolutions, Industry 4.0 disrupts the manufacturing industry and brings an array of benefits to those ready to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

design principles of Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is here, making vast amounts of knowledge available to manufacturers across the industry. To use history as our guide, we should see new revolution obstacles as opportunities and use proper design principles of Industry 4.0 to move into the future, sooner rather than later.

With contributions from S. Bennett.

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