What is Industry 4.0

What does the term Industry 4.0 refer to and where does it come from? Throughout this article you will learn about the context in which the different industrial revolutions took place until reaching this term, coined in 2011 to refer to the technological revolution in which we are immersed. Learn about the origin, importance and challenges facing this new industrial revolution.

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Communication Team

Telefónica

Reading time: 3 min

What does Industry 4.0 mean?

Industry 4.0 refers to the technological revolution that is transforming how companies operate, design, produce and deliver goods and services, a new era based on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) or automation.

Origin of Industry 4.0

The name Industry 4.0 emerged in Germany in 2011 and is linked to the industrial revolutions that humanity has previously experienced.

First industrial revolution

The first industrial revolution refers to the period from the second half of the 18th century to the first third of the 19th century, during which an enormous economic, social and technological transformation took place.

This historic period began in the United Kingdom and marked a turning point in history by changing the daily life of mankind with both agricultural and industrial production multiplying at a rate never seen before.

The introduction of James Watt’s steam engine (patented in 1769) is considered to be the definitive step in the success of this revolution, as its use meant an enormous increase in productive capacity.

Second industrial revolution

Between the end of the 19th century and the outbreak of the First World War (1914), industrialisation also changed with new energy sources such as gas, electricity and oil and new materials such as steel.

The emergence of the production line and the division of labour into tasks can also be seen at this time in history.

This period saw the emergence of mass production in industry, with the automobile as the paradigmatic example, which led to the popularisation of its use and the consequent total and absolute modification of mobility.

Third industrial revolution

This arose in the 1970s, when changes in information technology and electronics led to the automation of production.

Another characteristic of this era is the increased use of renewable energies and the development and expansion of the use of the Internet.

Fourth industrial revolution

The term Industry 4.0 was coined to refer to the technological revolution and digital innovations at the 2011 Hannover Industrial Fair in Germany.

It is an era marked by digitalisation and connectivity, in which data and new forms of communication have become extremely important.

Why Industry 4.0 is important

The benefits of Industry 4.0 are numerous. One of them is that, by collecting large amounts of data in real time, information can be obtained quickly, allowing decisions to be made with precision and a greater degree of certainty.

It also enables product customisation.

It also increases productivity. With improved resource allocation, downtime can be reduced.

This degree of efficiency also implies sustainability, as energy use is optimised, waste generated is reduced and even the design of products is conceived in a more sustainable way from their origin.

Industry 4.0 not only improves efficiency and productivity, as we have just seen, but also offers a competitive advantage.

Challenges of Industry 4.0

To continue exploring the subject in more depth, we will point out some aspects of Industry 4.0 that can be considered as challenges to be faced:

  • Data security. With the physical and digital worlds increasingly merging, adequate information security is crucial to protect the industrial sector.
  • Productivity and worker experience. In order to optimise to the maximum the new technological tools available, it is essential to enhance and develop the skills of the work team. The productivity of these tools is linked to the knowledge of those who have to apply them.
  • Automation and robotics. Although the laws of robotics have been enunciated for decades, both robotics and automation can help to evolve and optimise times (as well as reduce costs) in industrial processes.

Conclusion

Industry 4.0 is part of a digital revolution which, as José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman of Telefónica, reminds us, “is the biggest in the history of humanity”, with an impact four times greater than that of the first industrial revolution.

A technological revolution that, like previous ones, “is changing everything”, not only with a single technology but an accumulation of many that coexist, feed back and accelerate each other.

As Álvarez-Pallete reminds us, “never in the history of humanity has so much technology been accumulated in such a short space of time and, for this reason, we are fortunate as a generation to be living in fascinating times”.


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