As manufacturers maneuver through Industry 4.0, the latest Industrial Revolution
, you can’t help but marvel at the awesomeness of the technology. It brings together robots, internet-connected devices, and invisible networks of data racing through the air to produce intelligent, automated systems where robots take over—and more efficiently execute—the routine, mundane duties of the factory.
Awesome… yet, somewhat familiar. Wasn’t that the plot of the Will Smith movie where robots then try to take over the United States? Is it really a good idea to put so much responsibility in their mechanical hands? Just like Smith’s character in the film, many people don’t trust robots and worry that they will eliminate the need for workers in the factories after Industry 4.0. Luckily, while real life may parallel fiction, it’s generally not as dramatic or spectacular. Instead, robots in manufacturing environments will increase the value of laborers and create better jobs for them in the era of Industry 5.0.
According to visionaries like Esben H. Østergaard, Chief Technology Officer at Universal Robots
, Industry 5.0 will bring the human touch back to manufacturing. Whereas 4.0 puts advanced technologies at the center stage of production, Industry 5.0 will actually see people working alongside factory systems.
This digital transformation of Industry 4.0 is creating new smart factories where machines are not only connected to the internet, but also producing and collecting data from across the supply chain. This data is analyzed to reveal intelligence that drives quality improvement, process optimization, cost reduction, and regulatory compliance on the factory floor.
Industry 5.0 will optimally marry the high-speed and accuracy of industrial automation with the cognitive, critical thinking skills of human staff. So rather than technology displacing people, it will actually enhance their roles in manufacturing. The responsibility of repetitive tasks like drilling or data entry will fall to automated, collaborative systems. Staff can then take on higher-level responsibilities in supervising these systems, making real-time decisions, and looking for opportunities to elevate quality and production processes.
This harmony of cognitive thinking and mechanical output is not as far in the future as you might think. In fact, an Accenture survey
of 512 manufacturing executives from across North America, Europe, and Asia revealed that 85% of respondents foresee human-machine collaborative environments to be commonplace in their production processes by 2020 – just three years away!
Understandably, that anticipated 2020 date can be alarming for manufacturers who are just now making headway into adopting 4.0 technologies and moving towards digital transformation. Fortunately, human-machine collaboration has already begun and will naturally evolve with the transformation to smart factories. One example of this is a Quality Intelligence solution.
By leveraging the cloud, a Quality Intelligence solution centralizes quality data collected from plant floors across the enterprise. The data is collected both automatically and manually, depending on the situation and interface at each data entry point. The enterprise visibility attained from the aggregated data enables quality professionals, decision makers, and C-suite executives to analyze charts and dashboards that produce operational insights about continuous improvement opportunities.
In Industry 5.0, data collection is further automated and more inputs are added through robotic systems and internet-connected devices. The new factory worker will use the same charts and dashboards from the Quality Intelligence solution to monitor the factory of the future and quickly and intelligently make decisions about how to optimize a machine and/or process—often before there’s an issue. Automated alarms from the same system will immediately notify staff if a robot has gone offline, or if an automatic lathe needs a tune-up to correct out-of-spec products before an entire lot must be scrapped.
While Industry 4.0 and digital transformation may be at the top of everyone’s minds, it’s important to keep an eye towards the future. History has shown that the manufacturing world is not static; it is constantly propelled forward by new technologies. Just as Industry 4.0 technologies go beyond many manufacturers’ comfort zones, Industry 5.0 will also require an open mind and willingness to embrace the changing role of the factory worker.
What remains constant, however, is the need for quality products and the manufacturer’s desire to produce them. Continuing to innovate and invest in technologies helps to uncover new operational efficiencies, but it is human intellect that applies these insights to deliver a top quality product to market.