‘Industry 4.0’, the name given to the emerging use of a suite of technologies across many industry sectors, is revolutionising industrial operations in workplaces. Definitions of industry 4.0 technologies often refer to the concept of cyber-physical systems. These are essentially networked integrations of complex physical plant and machinery, sensors and software that communicate and share data wirelessly via the internet.
Industry 4.0 comprises both ‘enabling’ technologies and ‘actioning’ technologies. Examples of enabling technologies include enterprise IT systems, cloud computing, wireless internet, advanced algorithms, virtual and augmented reality, smart sensor networks, wearables, positioning and smart mobile devices.
Actioning technologies are those able to deliver specific tasks, whether physical or cognitive, such as robots, cobots, exoskeletons, 3D printers, process control systems, autonomous vehicles, aerial drones, intelligent agents and expert systems.
Used collectively, these technologies are transforming how workers, equipment and processes interact in industrial workplaces. They are enhancing the delivery of complex process operations through the seamless, end-to-end completion of the individual component tasks that make them up.
Previously, delivery of such tasks would have been reliant on a significant human and often manual component. In the era of industry 4.0, such tasks are technologically supported and often fully automated.