It is impossible to discuss the relationship between Industry 4.0 and work without mentioning automation. Like artificial intelligence, it is one of its founding axes. Without it, the industry of the future cannot develop. As automation becomes more sophisticated and integrated into manufacturing processes, it will change the work performed by humans to make it easier. By increasing speed and flexibility, automation makes the technologies used in production processes more efficient. It optimizes performance in the industry as it evolves.
Automation as an industrial phenomenon
Automation through robotics is accelerating in all areas of European industry. While there was one unit per 100 employees in 1995, there were 10 units per 100 in 2019. This figure is constantly increasing with the emergence of the industry 4.0 and shows how this process will change production cycles and work methods in the company.
Automation concerns all sectors of a chain. It starts with the supply of the production lines by using robots to feed the machines with parts, continues by controlling the processing machines and changing their rhythm according to the orders and ends with the packaging.
The production speed can be modulated as well as the supply to design specific batches. Automation allows the transition from mass production to demand-driven series production.
How does automation lead to Industry 4.0 and a progressive transformation of the way factories are produced?
Automation will profoundly transform the industrial world and its functioning. After imposing the machine and dehumanizing production with the assembly line model, automation is taking over the machine to put humans at the center of its development.
In the era of Industry 4.0, operators are becoming more active, as work is redefined by the use of new technologies:
- they supervise and analyse the data collected,
- they prevent possible malfunctions,
- they coordinate this cross-cutting process.
The use of connected tools enables faster communication upstream or downstream to have an immediate impact on a plant’s production. By combining the skills of different operators with the flexibility of automation, industrial companies will, in Industry 4.0, improve their operating methods and gain in productivity. The hyper-adaptability of production characterizes this new type of industry and generates a permanent emulation.