The print industry has gone through many changes over the past few decades, and is now entering the next level of production and integration, often referred to as the digitization of manufacturing. Under the umbrella of “Industry 4.0,” this trend is now discussed by many research organizations, and is causing quite a storm in the graphic communications arena. One of the underlying themes heard throughout drupa was how manufacturers are striving to achieve this with their various systems.
To fully understand how Industry 4.0 is impacting the print industry, let’s first take a step back. The developments in the industrial age are shown in Figure 1:
First Revolution: based on the harnessing of power from steam or water
Second Revolution: the start of mass production using electric energy
Third Revolution: the use of electronics and IT to further automate production
Fourth Revolution (Industry 4.0): the use of cyber-physical systems
The Next Level of Production
What we are seeing now with the fourth industrial revolution is the use of cyber–physical systems. These are systems and processes that communicate with machines and/or humans (both inside and outside company boundaries) to provide a smart production system throughout the entire value chain. By using the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud, you can build on the individual IT capabilities of each system to provide connectivity and integration. This allows big data to be collected, analyzed and acted upon so that systems can adapt and reconfigure steps in the manufacturing process to drive quality and productivity, ultimately boosting profitability.
Connectivity and Integration
One of the underpinning features of Industry 4.0 is the connectivity between devices and the leveraging of the IoT — moving from a strictly hierarchical system into a more connected and integrated system. There are many different definitions of what the IoT is and what is needed to comprise it:
“[t]he IoT links smart objects to the Internet. It can enable an exchange of data never available before, and bring users information in a more secure way” (Cisco)
“[t]he Internet of Things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment” (Gartner)
“[a]n infrastructure of interconnected objects, people, systems and information resources together with intelligent services to allow them to process information of the physical and the virtual world and react” (ISO JTC 1).
To simplify, as described by Kevin Berisso at the 2016 TAGA Conference, the IoT will have the following: physical objects that are connected through a network, data collection capability, and the ability to use information to make automated decisions.
Currently, we have many individual systems within our manufacturing processes that are optimized. However, these all operate as individual islands of automation. While efficiencies can be gained in each of the processes, it is only through a fully integrated approach that utilizes the IoT, analytics, and data that the entire value chain can be configured for optimal performance as shown in Figure 2.
The graphic communications industry is at the forefront of embracing this approach within its business operations. Integrating these systems allow for increased throughput and productivity to drive profitability. The companies that implement this approach will see a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace today and in the coming years.
To learn more about the key components of Industry 4.0, click here.