Why Industry 4.0 & Cyber-Physical Systems Are Not Just Science Fiction Buzzwords!

Why Industry 4.0 & Cyber-Physical Systems Are Not Just Science Fiction Buzzwords

Why Industry 4.0 & Cyber-Physical Systems Are Not Just Science Fiction Buzzwords!

Fret not humans, we’re not going anywhere… hopefully.

Fact Vs. Fiction

Unlike utopian literature dating back as far as the 16th century—Sir Thomas More’s satire Utopia (1516) that talks of an ‘ideal’ island community to works such as Edward Bellamy’s bestseller Looking Backward (1888) where the protagonist falls into a hypnosis-induced deep sleep for 113 years and wakes up in the year 2000 to a completely socialist world where industries are nationalised and an industrial army oversees production and distribution; or dystopian science fiction, E.M. Foster’s The Machine Stops (1909) a great example where a ‘technocratic’ society lives underground and is provided by an omnipotent machine, and my favourite, Black Mirror (2011), a 5-season series on Netflix that explores dark, very dark themes on how technology will totally fudge us—the near future of man and machine may not be as acutely drastic.

Cyber World

The obsession with a future immersed in technology gave rise to neologism, and the word ‘Cyber’ became popularised in relation to computers, digital networks, and virtual reality.

Nomenclature related to industry 4.0

Revolution Is Not an Event, It’s a Process!

Rightly said American rapper Professor Griff. What’s evident from these historical themes is that man’s integral relationship with information and technology and its engineering to enable organisations and individuals become more efficient and productive is a continuous process. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam to power engines and manufacturing, the Second used electricity for mass production, and the Third utilised electronics combined with digital technology to automate production.

Up until the third industrial revolution, the demarcations have been quite radical, however, there are various schools of thought that debate whether the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely Industry 4.0 is simply a hyped buzz word. If one were to understand that this time the change is less physical and more procedural, it becomes clear that we are indeed on the brink of a fundamental shift in the way things work. Industry 4.0 is not a prolonged phase of the digital revolution that started in the 70s, it’s a new phase of digital transformation.

Industry 4.0: Self-Aware

A simple analogy can be drawn between the four stages and the evolution of automotives. Starting with the steam engine to gas-powered engine, and then with Ford’s invention of the assembly line, the Ford 1908 Model T could be mass produced, bringing cars to households. Following this, robotics played an important role in manufacturing cars with digital accessories such as in-built GPS systems, heat sensors, automatically adjusting seats—today, in the fourth stage, we’ve got self-driving vehicles. These smart cars can literally teach you how to drive! I’ve seen some on Alex Hirschi’s (social media influencer, vlogger) episodes of Supercar Blondie and God knows she has the best job in the world!

Wolfgang about Industry 4.0

Deloitte captures the differentiation in Industry 4.0 in a most effective way, “The term Industry 4.0 encompasses a promise of a new industrial revolution—one that marries advanced manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things to create manufacturing systems that are not only interconnected, but communicate, analyse, and use information to drive further action back in the physical world.”

Stages of Industrialisation

Cyber-Physical Systems: Self-Optimising


Chronologically, it is interesting to note that the term Cyber-Physical Systems precedes Industry 4.0, however, today it is the essence of the latter. According to Berkley, “Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes.” In this orchestration between embedded computers monitoring physical processes with feedback loops, computation without human interface is not the primary goal—the idea is to make available vast quantities of intelligent data that can be examined and fed back into the system across internal and external stakeholders, for better decision-making, predictive maintenance, quick turn-around time, and cost efficiency—keeping the human aspect very much involved.

Data has always existed, however Big Data and the ability to analyse it using cloud-based Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems is what makes Industry 4.0 unique.

With unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, digital twins, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, quantum computing—the Smart Factory is the kingpin of the Fourth Industrial Revolution!

Cyber-Physical Systems have given us the ability to interpret the manufacturing architecture on a whole new level starting with self-optimisation to plug & play functionality and everything in between.

Architecture of Cyber-Physical Systems

Internet of Things: Self-Service

Oracle defines IoT as, “The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects—’things’—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.”

IoT Oracle Fact

However, the implementation is not restricted to just industries, IoT has permeated from day-to-day functioning in households to transportation, precision agriculture, Health CPS, water and mine monitoring, aerospace, retail and so on.

If you remember, in the 2002 Hollywood blockbuster Minority Report, Tom Cruise enters a shopping arcade and his eyes and face are instantly scanned so the AI addresses him with his proper name and even prompts him to buy grocery items that he may have run out on as it keeps tabs on his last purchase. As exciting as this may seem, one must remember that behind all this automation, sits a human programmer writing algorithms to make the AI appear as real as possible.

It’s safe to say then that Industry 4.0 or Cyber-Physical Systems is a direction towards the meeting of man and machine, people and processes, and by no degree discounts the human contribution in overcoming challenges in the system and ensuring the balance between the real and virtual.

InspireXT: Self-Sufficient

This entirely resonates with us at InspireXT’s Supply Chain Management solutions, where we combine our award-winning expertise and advisory services with leading Cloud technologies by Oracle to help you deliver the perfect experience to your customer.

For instance, our Value Chain Advisory Services provide a rapid assessment of current capabilities for organisations compared to the desired, and pragmatic technology solutions to bridge the gap.

InspireXT Value Chain Strategy

To conclude, in the words of Che Guevara, “The first duty of a revolutionary is to be educated,” and we pride ourselves in educating and immersing ourselves to really understand the business of our clients, functioning within the Cyber-Physical realm, where ‘cyber’ translates to Cloud-based technologies, and the ‘physical’ can be interpreted in terms of the human capital or expertise and the decision-making we provide.

If you want to assess, enhance, and optimise the current capabilities of your supply chain, look no further — get in touch with InspireXT for bespoke solutions for your enterprise!

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