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Industry 4.0: Building the Future for Manufacturing

By Gary Lo, VP, Product Management

March 28, 2022

The World Economic Forum chairman, Klaus Schwab, coined ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ as a way to collect together and describe many of the present-day advances in science and industry. Although our present era is characterized by constant change, there is some coherence around the increase in communication and automation. Many present-day industrial innovations are connected and often one leads to another.

Many analysts now refer to this as Industry 4.0. The key themes of modern industry 4.0 are interconnection, information transparency, technical assistance from machines to humans, and the ability of systems to autonomously make their own decisions.

The transition to this new phase is slowly carving out the path towards an era of Smart Factories.

Industry 4

Before we get to that, it’s worth a very brief history lesson , just to contextualize why the concept of Industry 4.0 is so important. Here is a brief summary of each industrial phase:

  • First Industrial Revolution: the late eighteenth century transition from manual production to the use of steam and waterpower.

  • Second Industrial Revolution: the late nineteenth century introduction of telegraph and railroads allowing a rapid transfer of people and ideas. Also, electrification, which created modern production lines.

  • Third Industrial Revolution: the late twentieth century digital revolution where computer power began to replace the need for human abilities.

  • Fourth Industrial Revolution: the present day imagination age. This is where cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cyber-physical systems are all powered by automation and the open exchange of data.

Cloud computing underpins almost every aspect of Industry 4.0 from automating processes to enabling IoT sensors – it is essential. All manufacturing companies with a desire to stay ahead of their competitors need to be exploring the best pathway into the use of a cloud environment. This is the first step to enabling all these other Industry 4.0 technologies. Traditional manufacturing processes must evolve to make use of the developments summarized by Industry 4.0.

Modern manufacturing is highly distributed with plants all over the world, dependent on a global supply chain and short-lived consumer demand. Creating a dynamic manufacturing system is very well suited to a flexible cloud environment, rather than complex on-premise systems that take years to design and install. Modern manufacturing no longer looks like a twentieth century vision of technology.

In a recent strategy paper, focused on the opportunities of cloud computing for manufacturing companies, Deloitte warned that there is a danger for any manufacturer that fails to grasp why cloud matters to them: “Missing this opportunity places manufacturers at the risk of falling behind their competition. Manufacturing companies therefore need an appropriate cloud approach in order to maintain a competitive position and to benefit from these new business models.”

Industry 4

Accenture suggests that there are many different steps that manufacturing companies can take on their cloud adoption journey, starting with an evaluation of what they are using at present: “The journey should start by identifying business outcomes that you want to achieve. Once the objective is clear, the next step is to evaluate existing applications. Which ones should be retired? Think about those reaching end-of-life or no longer business-relevant. Which should remain as is?”

Fortunately, you don’t need to start from square one. The Microsoft Azure platform is continuously adding new capabilities that enable this Industry 4.0 vision to become a reality. Realizing the potential of industry 4.0 is entirely underpinned by moving to the cloud. This powers the platform and application opportunities around secure tooling, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and automation, transforming capability and productivity.

To create a hyper scalable, secure, and globally connected business it is essential that your manufacturing systems are located in the cloud. AI and Machine Learning require the use of vast amounts of data. Likewise with networks of IoT sensors. A modern manufacturing environment needs storage and scale.

Azure can give your manufacturing business a head start and WatServ can help you get the most from Azure. WatServ is committed to helping manufacturers transform their business around the principles of Industry 4.0. We understand the technology trends that are in play at present and how they can transform your business for the future. Please check our website for more information and and case studies on how your manufacturing business can benefit from this approach. 

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with 1000’s of users connecting from around the world, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

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