Things to know about industry 4.0


We’ve had three major industrial revolutions so far – if you don’t count the discovery of the wheel, that is. Industry 1.0 was the use of steam to drive machines. Industry 2.0 was brought about by electricity, and characterised by the assembly line and mass production. Industry 3.0 was the birth of the computer age, as human beings began to understand how to program machines and process data.

And now, we’re seeing the birth of Industry 4.0, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, in which instead of being programmed by us, these machines will be able to carry out their own learning, take decisions and program themselves, with remote robotics making vast swathes of the human workforce redundant. Smart things – and everything from cars to cans will be smart – will be able to communicate with AI entities, which will process vast amounts of information, and direct factory production, oil refineries, food and agriculture, and every other area of human activity.

What characterises smart production and warehousing?

The facilities of the future will allow communication between physical entities (such as sensors and smart things), systems (such as procurement and warehouse management), robots that will be doing the work, and the odd human who will be there to supervise and help with more complex decisions.

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Rules-based decisions will be taken by the systems themselves, which will then instruct robotic assistants on the appropriate course of action. As an article in The Telegraph pointed out – robots generally make better decisions than human beings do.

But who will buy the products?

There are a number of logistical problems in the joined-up use of AI, robotics, computing power and smart things. Warehouses and the installation of industrial shelving Ireland wide may eventually be entirely automated. But the really big problems are at the human end.

We may be able to design, produce, store and transport goods more cheaply using this technology. But if, as predicted, 90% of humans are jobless, who is going to buy the goods being produced? Already, some commentators are predicting that we’ll have to have a universal wage, paid to everyone, to mitigate the loss of paid employment.

We may have Industry 4.0, but we only have Humans 1.0. So humans are going to have to change and catch up before it’s too late.


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