How important is the human factor in Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a subject that is increasingly spreading within every area that involves productive and manufacturing sectors. The inclusion of 4.0 technologies within the industrial contexts is revolutionizing the production lines (Internet of Things technologies for example). Companies must implement policies of integration among their internal departments, in particular for the activities of selection and management of large amount of data.

➡️ The relationship between machines and the human factor needs to be rethought. How important is the involvement of people within Industry 4.0 and how can this be done to make the most out of this change?

Keyword: integration

Establishing the role people can play in what is defined as the new industrial revolution involves taking a step back and starting from a basic concept: to make the best from Industry 4.0 requires the utmost integration of its components, informatics, mechanics and humans.

✔️ It is not just a synergy between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology), but a wider involvement of each industrial department in the selection and subsequent management of a large amount of data that Industry 4.0 and IoT necessarily bring with them.

➡️ With the aim to make this process as efficient as possible, its integration and simplification become fundamental. It is therefore necessary to facilitate the implementation of new 4.0 technologies in existing contexts and make them available as quickly and intuitively as possible, by updating (in better) the relationship between people and machines.

The centrality of the human factor

The Industry 4.0 pushes to a rethinking of the logic of human-machine interface, from touch displays, to wearable devices and augmented reality.

✔️ The question is what role the human factor should play in this epochal change in the way of doing industry.

In an interesting research, the “Osservatorio Industria 4.0” suggests that to maintain the centrality of the human factor within the new contexts 4.0 it is necessary that companies increase their skills, both in terms of human resources selection and training in general. The “Skills 4.0” are necessary for the management of new technologies for data administration, for privacy, for cybersecurity and much more.

➡️ The workforce has to evolve in order to maintain its role within the evolving productive contexts that can potentially make the human presence obsolete. Many aspects and activities in the industrial environment still need the contribution of people, provided that they are able to improve their skills to intercept these “blind spots” in the production chain, where machines’ capabilities are not yet sufficient.

Practical 4.0 applications

The research of “Osservatorio Industria 4.0” has identified (concerning Italy) the trends of diffusion of Industry 4.0 applications and the three large business areas where the “new skills” we have talked about are mostly required:

⭕️ Smart Factory includes production, logistics, maintenance, quality and safety, all areas where the industrial IoT solutions are used (the industrial application of the IoT, identified with the acronym IIoT), as well as Industrial Analytics (the management and elaboration of large amount of data produced), Advanced HMI (“Human-Machine Interface”, the new human-machine interaction tools we have previously mentioned) and Advanced Automation (advanced systems related to automation);

⭕️ Smart Supply Chain, which includes the optimization of the production chain according to the new Industry 4.0 standards, perfected thanks to Industrial Analytics and IIoT;

⭕️ Smart Lifecycle, that means the complete management of the product, from development to life cycle and supplier management. These issues are mainly managed with IIoT, Industrial Analytics and Cloud platforms.

We are witnessing a huge historical shift in the field of industry, which is revolutionizing and changing the whole conception of production systems. It is not just a matter of adapting but of seizing the opportunity and knowing how to exploit this change, even by adapting to it with the purpose to preserve the centrality of the human factor.

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