Industry 4.0: The Future of Manufacturing? Chip Making Joins the 21st Century by Dick Selwood

Elsewhere in the world, Industry 4.0 is likely to be something that you vaguely recognize. Its exact definition is open to debate; many writers and commentators are not in agreement, but, to a large extent, defining it is irrelevant to what is actually happening.

Firstly - Why 4.0? It is argued that we are on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution. The first, the one we learned about in school, was driven by steam power, which allowed factories employing hundreds of people to replace artisans in small workshops and provided steam hauled trains to move raw materials and finished goods in large quantities over long distances. The second was electrically driven, and it saw the assembly line evolving to create ever-higher volumes of production. The widespread use of digital computers and robots is arguably the third industrial revolution.

And, if Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution, what are its components? Viewed in some lights, it is simply the application of the industrial internet of things. Other terms used include "The Smart Factory" and "Connected Industry." And people talk about cyber-physical systems and machine learning.

One aspect of Industry 4.0 that appears frequently in the broader literature is the use of big data and analytics. A briefing piece from Consultants McKinsey describes how a car maker analyzed the use of its on-line configurator (you know – the thing you play with to build your ideal car) and the actual purchasing data to see what options customers were prepared to pay for. Using this information, it reduced the options offered on one model to only 13,000. (I love the "only.") By contrast, a competitor offered 27,000,000 options on a similar model. Doing this allowed the car company to reduce development time and production costs "dramatically" (McKinsey's word). Other companies in the process industries are able to use data to increase process yields by significant amounts.

Another aspect is that all the members of the supply chain can communicate without human interaction, making Just-in-Time work at multiple levels. Linked to this is the use of individual product identity, using markers like bar codes or RFID tags, to get a better understanding of, and perhaps improvement to, production flow.

The definition of Industry 4.0 that Bosch presented is:

Fusion of the physical world of production with the virtual world of information technology and the internet.

Humans, machines, objects and systems are connected via ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and the internet, and they communicate in a dynamic, real time optimized and self-organized way.

In these intelligent production systems, all instances of the added value chain, from the supplier of logistics to the customer, are connected across the company.

The industrial production can implement individualized customer requests on the well-known high-quality level, while reaching higher flexibility and robustness, as well as optimal resource allocation.

Despite natural concern over the broader geo-political situation, there was a very positive vibe amongst those present, and there seems to be optimism over the growth of semiconductor manufacturing.

WKB is driving the German think tanks to revolutionize the Industrial horizon via Smart factories and Advanced Machine & human interfacing to give a boost to the Make in India vision of the Dynamic PM of India. WKB will open platforms for exchange of information, technologies and latest research and advances via Transformational workshops, Exhibitions and Tech shows.