Industry 4.0: A revolution like no other

Industrial Revolutions of the past, whilst providing indisputable long-term advances in science and technology, caused immeasurable hardships on the population of the day in job losses and social upheaval. Here we explain why the fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, is unlike any revolution that has come before it and why we shouldn’t fear history repeating itself.

The invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1770, and its subsequent introduction onto factory floors caused great upheaval in the textile industry. Because a single Spinning Jenny machine could do the work of eight people, workers in the industry were angry about its introduction and the risk of unemployment was a constant worry.

Fast forward to the present where there is concern in some sectors that in the age of Industry 4.0, similar uncertainty and upheaval will be experienced as new technologies once again revolutionise the factory floor. However, unlike technological revolutions of the past, Industry 4.0 is not replacing human jobs with technology – it is transforming them.

Industry 4.0 is seeing the introduction of smart technology and artificial intelligence (AI) into the workplace to aid the human workforce, not replace it. One such example of this is collaborative robots (cobots).

Cobots have become an attractive proposition for small and medium sized businesses that are looking to add automation into their production processes. As the name implies, these cobots are intended to interact with the human workforce in a shared work environment and are built to be smaller, lighter and safer than conventional industrial robots.

Facilities use cobots that can operate alongside or even directly with humans to help improve productivity in numerous tasks, such as lifting, assembly, inspection or the handling of dangerous or hazardous materials.

Upgrading a factory to make use of cobots alongside existing legacy equipment and the human workforce is an attractive proposition for many businesses but it is one that requires selective investments and careful obsolescence management.

Furthermore, the rise of additive manufacturing (AM) as part of Industry 4.0 will lead to the creation of more high-skilled jobs within the manufacturing industry. This technology has resulted in an almost limitless freedom for designers, enabling the production of lightweight optimised components that are impossible to make using conventional manufacturing techniques. This can only prove to be a good thing for both businesses and consumers alike.

AM is now being used across several different industries, from the aerospace industry to the manufacturing of medical devices. The use of AM in the medical device manufacturing industry is leading to more effective healthcare solutions. In fact, additively manufactured implants have become increasingly common over recent years and all signs point to this trend continuing. This proves that Industry 4.0, as well as transforming the workplace, is already having an immeasurably positive impact on people’s lives.

The Spinning Jenny was designed to replace the human workforce during the Industrial Revolution whereas Cobots are designed to collaborate with, and work alongside, human workers. And that is the key difference between Industry 4.0 and technological revolutions of the past.

If you are interested in learning more about obsolescence management, go to read EU Automations Book of Obsolescence Management to guide you through the seven steps to obsolescence management.