It is now clear that the early decades of the 21st century will be defined by the increasing degree of automation and integration of digital technology into our daily lives. There isn’t a sector of the economy that Industry 4.0 has left untouched. The structural transformation is so deep-rooted and broad that it is aptly being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
What is Industry 4.0
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is the ongoing trend towards automation and the adoption of advancements in information technology to manufacturing and industries. It represents a significant shift in the way we produce, manufacture and distribute products. The core components of Industry 4.0 are the cyber-physical systems, in which physical processes are integrated into computational techniques. This essentially means that the industrial processes are monitored and controlled by computers. Computers and networks connected to plants and machinery monitor and control the physical processes with the help of feedback loops. This arrangement automates vital processes and brings down manual errors, and bumps up performance metrics.
Cutting-edge advancements enable the process of automation in computing. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, are being increasingly used to minimize or aid decision-making by humans. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology, where sensors are attached to machinery and equipment, transmits real-time data to computers, processes and is used to optimize performance. Industry 4.0 makes manufacturing intelligent and context-aware, which drives the efficiency up by miles.
Industry 4.0 in Chemical Industries
Many technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced materials, additive manufacturing, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics can become the drivers of optimization in chemical plants. From the procurement of raw materials to the distribution to the retail consumers, almost all processes can be made more smooth and operationally coherent using the integration of these technologies.
The procurement of raw materials and distribution of finished products can become a nightmare for chemical distribution companies that require precise amounts of chemicals at regular intervals to operate smoothly. Industries may use blockchain technology and data analytics to make the process of procurement of raw materials easy. They can consolidate the data gathered from procurement for hassle-free accounting and costing. The historical data can also be subjected to data analytics techniques to develop the ideal requirements that minimize cost and maximize value addition. Similar techniques can be applied to the distribution side of the supply chain to maximize profits, analyze demand trends and modify company strategies.
The working of plants can be methodically made more efficient by adopting automated equipment with sensors that transmit data to a mainframe system. AI and machine learning algorithms can be used to evaluate and maximize the performance metrics of machinery. The data gathered from the equipment through attached IoT sensors enables the identification and resolution of unseen bottlenecks. Chemical plants usually require regular maintenance for lubrication and replacement of parts. The gathered data can also predict and schedule these downtimes and allow plants to optimize their resource efficiency.
In one way or the other, the chemical industry forms the backbone for many different economic sectors. Making the chemical supply companies more efficient will positively affect other sectors in the economy. The integration of digital and physical technologies made possible by Industry 4.0 can transform the chemical industry to become significantly more productive.