Prepare for Industry 4.0 by Learning the Lingo

Here are 12 Industry 4.0 terms to know.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well underway. In this new world of manufacturing interconnectivy and data analysis, manufacturers must build their knowledge and vocabulary of Industry 4.0 terms. As an example, one U.S. manufacturer now has 10,000 robots, loaded with smart sensors and devices, gathering data in real time, sending it through the plant’s computer network, to a data collector and up to the cloud every 15 minutes. Algorithms go to work, and the robots are to the point where they can predict their own future failure and order their own replacement parts before the failure ever occurs.

Here are 12 terms related to Industry 4.40 that are helpful to understand.

Industry 4.0: The term used to describe the fourth industrial revolution, characterized by the collision of Operational Technology and Information Technology as physical equipment becomes interconnected and intelligent.

Smart Sensors and Smart Devices: Driving advancements, the sensors and devices used on manufacturing equipment now include embedded intelligence, enabling them to be programmed to make decisions without the need of a separate computer or programmable controller. They then scrub data and send only the most pertinent information to plant computer networks. The result is that manufacturing decisions are now made on … the edge.

The Edge: Smart sensors and devices that make their own decisions exist on the edge of the plant computer network, saving bandwidth and expediting manufacturing decisions.

Digital Twins: Computer models that gather information from smart sensors and devices and simulate a manufacturing process in a fashion identical to the process itself. Digital Twins can be used to test changes to the manufacturing process and predict future performance and downtime enabling line down situations to be avoided.

“Informactionable” Data: It’s a copyrighted term, and I own the copyright, but I knew when I heard the chancellor of a major polytechnic university use my term that I was onto something. IBM released a statistic not long ago that 90 percent of the data that exists today was created in the last two years. With the loads of data being collected by our manufacturing equipment the problem of the future will not be a lack of data, but way too much of it. Being able to discern what data helps drive business performance and what doesn’t will be key.

Artificial Intelligence Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) arm, DeepMind, created an AI program known as AlphaZero. AlphaZero trained on the game of chess for a nine hours and defeated the winner of the 2016 Top Chess Engine Championship 25 out of 28 games in which the game didn’t end in a draw. We are moving to a time when our manufacturing processes will gather their own data and optimize themselves.

Predictive Analytics: Using data to predict future events (and avoid the bad ones before they ever take place). See the 10,000 robot example in the preceding introduction.

Augmented Reality: Strap on a pair of goggles and maximize productivity. An article on Engineering.com touts examples. Complete a complex assembly with the instructions magically appearing before you, analyze an electrical circuit while looking through the schematic, troubleshoot a machining center while a remote technician offers expert advice and sees the same view you do. The applications are endless.

Additive Manufacturing: It will be awhile before 3D printers are used to manufacture end-use parts in volume, but their applications in manufacturing are becoming significant. Companies such as Markforged now offer printers that produce super strong carbon-reinforced nylon, 17-4 stainless steel and soon tool steel, titanium and Inconel parts. The day that manufacturers can design soft jaws, machine fixtures and robot end effectors right in their own plants and print production-ready tooling on a same or next-day basis is here.

Robophobia: The fear that a robot will take your job. This is worth worrying about for workers who have a routine, unskilled job that a robot can perform less expensively, more reliably or more safely than you can. The cure is to commit to lifelong learning and build your skills in a career that leverages technology.

Cloud Architect: This is only one of dozens of new careers that will proliferate as a result of Industry 4.0. A six figure plus salary cloud architect oversees a company’s cloud computing process. Not your bag? Other amazing Industry 4.0 careers include automation engineer (the fourth happiest job in America according to USA Today), robot programmer, robot operator, industrial maintenance technician, electromechanical technician, IT Systems Analyst, IT Engineer and Data Scientist.

IIoT Armageddon: This is another term I came up with on my own. The Industrial Internet of Things, aka Industry 4.0 is upon us. Manufacturing processes and technology will change profoundly in the coming decade. In this exciting era, there will be two types of manufacturers. Those who embrace the change, and those who no longer exist.