What is industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, refers to the impact of automation, the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and machine learning (ML) on batch and process manufacturing. Industry 4.0 helps the process industry to drive growth, increase efficiency, and boost profits in dozens of use cases.

Industry 4.0 brings together the flood of big data produced by myriads of sensors, extensive systems of interconnected devices, and AI and ML to create smart devices that can communicate machine to machine (M2M) and act autonomously. Smart systems can generate and apply real-time data insights to make better decisions, increase OEE, and cut costs.

While smart devices bring value to every industry, they are particularly useful for process manufacturing, where datasets are enormous, errors can be extremely costly, and employee safety is a real concern.

Why does industry 4.0 matter to process manufacturers?

With the help of industry 4.0, process manufacturing businesses can make plants more efficient and productive, while also improving their understanding of market changes and customer demands. Some of the use cases for industry 4.0 in the world of process manufacturing include:

  • Analyzing and understanding the market outlook, empowering companies to mitigate risks, and seize opportunities.
  • Predictive analytics/maintenance that detect the earliest signs of anomalies, helping refine maintenance schedules, fix parts before they fail, reduce plant downtime and extend equipment life cycle.
  • Autonomous equipment and robotics that increases plant safety by removing the need for human involvement in dangerous situations.
  • Accurate, real-time insights into plant equipment and processes, enabling plant managers to optimize operations and processes and cut inefficiencies.
  • Improved cross-departmental collaboration and cooperation that drives productivity and innovation.
  • Better business decision-making that is based on data-driven insights and real-time reporting.
  • Optimizing supply chains and production cycles to meet customer demand and bring products and services to market more cheaply and swiftly than the competition.

How can process plants implement industry 4.0?

Master industry 3.0

It’s a bad idea to try to leapfrog over stages in the journey to industry 4.0. Industry 3.0 refers to investing in computing and electronic tools, digitizing your plant processes, replacing legacy equipment with devices that support connectivity, and breaking down silos between your information technology and your operations teams.

Build a data strategy

Most process plants are already gathering masses of data, but they aren’t paying attention to what happens next. You need to prepare and implement a data strategy that includes planning how to collect it in a single repository, unify formatting, preprocess it for analysis, and remove any manual steps so that the entire undertaking is automated.

Define your goals

Successful implementation of any new approach demands that you first define what you want to achieve and consider how it will impact the organization as a whole. Examine your biggest pain points, and set your priorities in terms of business goals and value chain optimization.

Foster the competencies you need

Industry 4.0 goes much further than simply investing in new digital tools. It’s a complete shift in culture that requires your employees to embrace a mindset of change and innovation, so be prepared to educate everyone accordingly. You might also need to hire new talent to meet your industry 4.0 needs, and/or upskill existing employees to fill skills gaps.

Build confidence in the system

Introducing industry 4.0 means asking a lot of your employees. Build confidence in the new technology by introducing new workflows and platforms gradually, and focusing on the low-hanging fruit by targeting your employees’ biggest pain points. Encourage them to try out new tools in limited ways before expanding industry 4.0 across the organization.

How does industry 4.0 make process plants more competitive?

By applying the combined mindset, tools, and workflows of industry 4.0, process plants are able to increase productivity and profitability across the organization. Greater insights into the plant and the market empower process plant managers to drive innovation, boost growth, and seize opportunities that make you more competitive in a crowded market.