On the road to industry 4.0

Modern history has seen three major industrial revolutions based on steam, electricity and computer automation. Now, a fourth one is underway: industry 4.0. This time, it is driven by a combination of factors:

  1. Lower-priced smart technology
  2. The rise of big data and analytics
  3. Increasing computing power and connectivity
  4. Ongoing miniaturization of actuators and sensors

Industry 4.0 pushes for intelligent new processes

This new ‘industry 4.0’ revolution is transforming industrial processes we’ve long been familiar with into more connected cyber-physical systems: ones that integrate automation and smart robots in more intensive ways. This enables intelligent new manufacturing processes that create significant new opportunities in increased productivity, cost savings, work-floor safety and reduced energy use.

Safeguarding future success with a smart factory

A recent survey revealed that many manufacturing organizations are interested in modernizing their plants to acquire industry 4.0 capabilities. It’s also a smart thing to do if you consider the ongoing evolution of customer buying and supply chain delivery. In today’s connected, on-demand world, both buying and delivery capabilities continue to become increasingly flexible and personalized. It’s logical to assume that manufacturing lines will also need to optimize the flexibility and capabilities of production processes – as well as throughput speed – to safeguard future success.

Bridging the OT – IT gap

But while there is clearly reason to join the industry 4.0 revolution, many organizations hesitate. This is not surprising. There is a somewhat large gap between traditional Operational Technology expertise and today’s advanced Information Technology know-how. Even world-leading manufacturers are generally unfamiliar with what is out there in terms of the very latest IT, to say nothing of how to successfully implement it to take their production to the next level.

Taking the industry 4.0 leap

The first (and arguably most important) factor that has to be embraced is that industry 4.0 will require change throughout the whole organizational chain. Simply adapting work-floor systems is not enough. It affects every aspect of production, starting at R&D since highly automated manufacturing and assembly pose specific requirements in terms of product design.

Taking the leap also requires investment in automation and control systems that allow process data to be gathered. However, manufacturing data on its own means nothing: it has to analyzed and translated into intelligence on which optimization action can be taken. For this, you need to create a pool of expertise by fostering multi-disciplinary competences within the organization. Engineers must be prepared to change their focus from hardware (OT) to software (IT).

Other operational and management changes may also be necessary to ensure optimal insights across – and cross-fertilization between – OT and IT. Last, but not least, attention must be paid to the critical issue of data security.

Industry 4.0 roadmap

Philips Engineering Solutions key area of expertise Industry consulting can provide valuable support to manufacturers in making a complete – or partial – transition to industry 4.0 technology. We take a holistic approach, looking not only at the production system, but also product design and your people. On the basis of this, we develop a detailed roadmap and investment plan that define the necessary steps to transform your organization and plant from its current state into its future one.

Transform your plant to a smart factory

This includes transition plans for each of your specific businesses, looking at all relevant aspects such as workflow expertise and data management. Depending on the scope of the transformation that is needed, we can define and execute specific incremental stages, such as pilot projects.

Preparing for tomorrow today

These activities – along with others that establish a solid bridge between OT and IT in your company – are carefully interlinked and synchronized. Together, they eventually bring you to the end goal of a ‘smart factory’. However, it should be noted that this process can easily take from 5 to 10 years. Those who are seriously interested in taking advantage of the IT that paves the way to industry 4.0 would be wise to start getting ready for tomorrow today.

For more information about industry 4.0, contact us:

mathieu brault

Mathieu Brault
Senior Consultant, Operations Management
Industry consulting, Philips Engineering Solutions


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