Understanding Industry 4.0

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Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Huh Hyun

In South Korea, amidst Klaus Schwab being honored at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the success of Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo, Industry 4.0 has captured the nation’s attention. Siemens of Germany and GE of the United States have their own concept of industry 4.0.

In Industry 3.0, with the invention of computers and electronic devices, start-up companies were the ones that led the global charge towards automating production. Industry 4.0, however, is currently expanding due to the activities of well-known companies that made their mark in Industry 2.0. These companies are likely to lead the age of Industry 4.0. Nevertheless, even with the dominance of multinational companies, it is certain that there will be opportunities for start-up companies to join the market.

Converting steam and hydro energy to electric energy was key to transitioning from Industry 1.0 to Industry 2.0. Electric energy, a universal energy source, was only used within individual factories but became a key industry and further harnessed to become the vast energy source we know today. This phenomenon was made possible by the development of new devices and factories that sped up the process. Here, the key point is that GE, a company established during Industry 2.0, is currently positioning itself not only to induce but to shape Industry 4.0 with different strategies. We need understand that, while there are similarities between Industry 2.0 and Industry 4.0, an entirely different category of characteristics exists between the 2nd and 4th Industries.

Industry 2.0 and Industry 4.0 both focus on manufacturing businesses. However, while Industry 2.0 centered on the traditional manufacturing system, Industry 4.0 uses highly advanced data processing abilities and connection networks available to it to achieve a completely different manufacturing business. An important point regarding each industry is that as time passes, the complexity of the Industry rises. This has posed challenges for government and society, as a period of adjustment is generally needed; however, for the consumers, the resulting products are generally much simpler to use, and more competitively priced compared to the previous Industry.

Moreover, Industry 4.0 has been given impetus by the interaction of cyber-physical systems through the process of convergence, which is crucial in two ways. To begin with, if a problem cannot be resolved within the sphere of one field, applying the fundamentals of or technologies from another field often offers a solution. For example, we can apply the concepts of X-rays that are conventionally only used in a hospital setting to determine whether any cracks exist in an oil borehole. Secondly, the techniques and principles from two different spheres can be conflated into a completely different category. This can be a transformative way to amalgamate entirely disparate components of information or technologies from competing fields into a new, coherent system. In Korea as well as the rest of the world, the popularity of applying convergence technology and systems is evident and attests to the usefulness of such a system and the burgeoning 4th Industry.

It is important though, to keep the larger picture in mind, in order to link all of the elements of Industry 4.0 so as to be able to predict the specific sections of Industry 4.0. This ability would also provide the opportunity to predict one’s career in fifteen years. By understanding the changes brought on by Industry 4.0, one can further develop a flexible thinking system that acknowledges this natural change to motivate a person to establish specific methods and goals to advance in one’s life. Each Industry has brought with its own socio-economic ideals. It is important that we understand this next Industry 4.0 so that we are not left behind.

By Hyun Huh, Banpo High School