Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution. Often this term is conflated with IIoT and the connected model, but a cohesive network mesh is simply the highway on which Industry 4.0 operates. Back to the original question then – what, in practical terms, is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is using data-driven insights to automate decisions. This process can be broken into three steps.

Step 1 – Data Collection and Aggregation

IIoT devices provide data on nearly every aspect of an automated process. That data must be collected and aggregated for analysis. What data is important depends on the objective. Edge compute devices can pre-process data peripherally to reduce network load and simplify computation at the central server.

Step 2 – Data Analysis

This is where insights are formed. Analysis can be simple, e.g., monitoring motor data to predict time of failure. It can also be complex, e.g., applying machine learning to autonomous vehicle vision data to properly classify objects.

Step 3 – Decisions Based on Insights

Once insights are formed, they must propagate back to the edge. In the motor example, recognition of impending motor failure might lead to delivery of a replacement motor that can be installed during the next scheduled downtime. In the autonomous vehicle example, detection of a stop sign at the next intersection might cause the vehicle to begin braking.

Industry 4.0 might seem like a buzzword, but it provides a framework for using data to improve. Improve the bottom line by recognizing and removing inefficiencies from a process. Improve the top line by increasing the quality and yield of manufactured or cultivated goods. Improve uptime by replacing machine components before failure. Improve safety by ensuring the autonomous vehicle stops when it should. Following closely the footsteps of each previous industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is quickly becoming the standard. Taking the place of 19th century steam power, data is now driving the train, and I am excited to see where it takes us.

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Blog post is written by Skylar Dhaese - OT Network engineer helping integrators and manufacturers monetize their digital transformation.