In industry, the term Industry 4.0 is currently the symbol for the further development of industrial production. The vision describes a way of production in which everything is networked in the best possible way. Networking then enables a self-controlling and self-optimizing production (also have a look atWhat is Industry 4.0?”). But what is the historical course that led to Industry 4.0?
The designation of the different types of industrial production is of course not an active determination of the past, but a simplified categorization made in retrospect of the development. The different stages are not sharply defined, and yet each of them represents a kind of revolution in industry, which is reflected in the further developments and in the effects on society.
Industry 1.0 - Power from water and steam
The first industrial revolution began at the end of the 18th century. This is generally referred to as "industrialization". In this period, the first machines were operated by the power of steam and water instead of human labor, e.g. mechanical looms. New jobs were created in factories. Socially, this had far-reaching effects, because the world of work changed a lot. Workers were withdrawn from agriculture and handicrafts into factory buildings, where they could expect higher wages but had to live with much worse working conditions. In the countryside, on the other hand, the negative consequences were felt, with factories having to close due to a lack of workers. Because of these strong upheavals, the period is called the first industrial revolution.
Industry 2.0 - Assembly line and electricity
Electricity, motors and the invention of assembly line work provided the next major step in development. Electricity and motors made it possible to drive machines independently of water and steam, making them much more flexible. The invention of the assembly line in car production by Henry Ford then provided a significant increase in production efficiency at the beginning of the 20th century. Series production enabled products to be manufactured in even shorter time and in even larger quantities. It was the beginning of mass production. It was now possible for much broader sections of the population to buy the products from the factories because they could be produced more cheaply.
Industry 3.0 - Computers
The transition to the next industrial revolution was made possible by the development of computers. Since electronic components were ready for use in industrial environments in the 1970s, automation with electronics, IT and programmable logic controllers (PLC) has been pushed forward in production. Machine processes and controls could be controlled highly efficiently and human intervention could be reduced to a minimum. This is the revolutionary development compared to series production, where machines could only work a little self-sufficiently.
Die Entwicklung der Elektronik ging rasant voran, so dass Steuerungen immer leistungsfähiger und kleiner wurden. Immer mehr Geräte konnten mit eigener Intelligenz ausgestattet werden. In dem Zuge waren auch immer mehr Daten verfügbar, die aus der Automatisierung aufgezeichnet werden konnten. In der Industrie 3.0 können Auswertungen auf diese Daten aber immer nur im Nachgang erfolgen und die Erkenntnisse nur langsam wieder in die Automatisierung zurückgegeben werden.
Industry 4.0 - Digitalization
The fourth industrial revolution is now developing by networking the intelligent automation devices and all other systems involved in production in the best possible way. This networking creates revolutionary possibilities for the coordination of the systems with each other. Each system can access the information it needs for optimal operation at any time and can also provide its own data. This creates the possibility of self-optimization and self-control for production and thus the intelligent factory. The networking is not limited to certain areas and also includes the produced goods themselves. Data from the product's lifecycle flows back into development and can have a direct influence on current production. Machines can share their status with other production systems, which in turn can react to it.
In Industry 4.0, the customer is also integrated in the best possible way, so that customer requirements are optimally incorporated into production, up to production with batch size 1 (see Goals Industry 4.0).
The change to Industry 4.0 creates efficiency, flexibility and many opportunities for further development and thus competitive advantages and improvements in working conditions and environmental compatibility. As with the other industrial revolutions, the change is not abrupt, but steady and unstoppable.