Just a few months ago, the future seemed bright for many industries across the board. Plenty of technological innovation impacted a surge in solutions that revolved around helping businesses from a variety of sectors. Founders, CEOs and other individuals were all positioned to reach the next level.
Then suddenly, a potent pandemic crippled entire economies and disabled strategies, bringing about a halt to many future plans. How has COVID-19 affected Industry 4.0? Have advancements in areas like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data been squandered? Has the crisis sent Industry 4.0 back to the drawing board?
Quite the contrary
When it comes to delving into the mechanics for the future of manufacturing, production and operational logistics, Industry 4.0 is very much a central focus right now. Artificial intelligence, advanced automation, the Internet of Things and data analytics are all components that could play very integral roles as they begin to reinvent and restructure how businesses and industries offer their products and services. These technologies could also impact a business’ overall digital strategy.
The pandemic has brought social distancing procedures, contactless forms of transactions and payments, an urgent emphasis on building digital infrastructures and an urgent emphasis on operational efficiency to light. These key factors all require the implementation of advanced technology in order to accelerate enterprise-wide growth in a calculated and careful fashion.
Businesses are more cautious than before moving forward, and Industry 4.0 could help meet their demands.
Necessity over doubt
As Industry 4.0 technologies became more mainstream, many manufacturers and enterprises around the world were wary of adopting the concept of Industry 4.0 due to the alleged costs and complexity related to the entire process.
However, the pandemic has begun a trail of thought that realizes the full extent of potential damage if businesses don't react to the crisis and change the structure of their operations. The fact remains that elements of AI, IoT and Big Data are all extremely beneficial to some degree (and in many different ways).
Digital technologies are used to make manufacturing processes more flexible, efficient and agile. Internet-connected components like wireless sensors and devices for analytics are used with software to track, evaluate, analyze and optimize operational details, leading to "smart factories" that can effectively track production. These components might possibly make digital process automation easier.
Industry 4.0 is a by-product of innovation
As a by-product of innovation, Industry 4.0 isn't a singular product or system that is simply bought. Instead, it consists of different technologies collaborating in intricate ways all at once. It's a concept that enables the integration of operational technology (OT) as well as information technology (IT). Logistics, production and vital processes become more intelligent as companies begin to adopt systems and devices that can communicate with each other through data and connectivity.
As the pandemic unfolds, we're witnessing a flurry of innovation in various forms and at different levels from companies all around the world. In order to cope with the new norm, businesses in retail and production have implemented automated drone tech, AI-integrated systems for added digital convenience and Big Data to track customers and build better experiences. It seems that there may still be a very bright future for Industry 4.0 with plenty of opportunities in store.
As a means of fighting the virus
Industry 4.0 technologies are, on one hand, in demand in order to sustain, improve and accelerate enterprise activities. However, Industry 4.0 is also gaining traction because of the fight against COVID-19.
Technologies like AI and Big Data are literally being used to help cope with and contain the current pandemic. Mobile solutions are being used as tools for data collection that, in turn, help with measures like contact tracing, symptom checking and even anticipating potential outbreaks or other vulnerabilities. AI-based thermal imaging features are being fitted into cameras. These can then detect if social distancing procedures are being adhered to in public spaces.
Cloud-based platforms can help improve social distancing standards. By using such platforms (or work from home tools), workers, teams, students and healthcare professionals are able to communicate with each other more effectively while maintaining distance. Drones and robotics are being included in the fight against COVID-19 as well, with medical supplies and rations being delivered swiftly across facilities for infected patients.
It seems clear that Industry 4.0 isn’t going away anytime soon. Its importance and relevance may become even clearer with time. It doesn’t come without challenges though. SMEs and other smaller sectors are struggling to cope with the adoption of digital tech that’s necessary to sustain themselves. Some countries don’t have the digital infrastructure or the technological resources to fully integrate Industry 4.0 optimally. However, steps are being made to push the entire world towards a more Industry 4.0-ready future.