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Industry 4.0: The Fourth Industrial Revolution

What is it?

Industry 4.0 is a term created in 2011 by a German initiative in response to globalized competition, to encourage industry to integrate the power of new technologies into its processes.

Its impacts can be so great that we are talking about a fourth industrial revolution (4.0).

Do you remember the first industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century? Mechanization and the steam engine forever transformed craftsmanship into industry. Then, towards the end of the 19th century, the second industrial revolution brought electrical energy, assembly line theorizing and mass production. It is still the dominant model in the world today, a model whereby an ultra-standardised object, mass-produced on sophisticated and high-performance machines is manufactured at a very low price. Since the 1970s, there has been a rise in automation, robotization, and the increasingly close integration of computer systems in the industry. This is the 3.0 transition.

Today, the fourth industrial revolution is made possible by the gigantic technological advances of the last decades in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These include the Internet, computer and telecommunications networks, the computerization of programmable logic controllers, and the computing power of micro-processors, which enable huge amounts of data to be processed in a very short time. We speak of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).

Industry 4.0 industrial revolution smart factory
Evolution of industrial systems from the 18th century to the present day. ⓒVitaminn

This revolution is radically transforming not only production models but also business models, completely changing the game at all stages, from product creation to commercialization. It applies to industry but also to our ways of consuming, of making decisions, of using our resources, in short, our lives.

Not convinced?

Show a 10-year-old a picture of a postage stamp, a landline dial phone, even a DC-ROM. He will have no idea what you are talking about, and you will feel a great wave of nostalgia wash over you, for this still familiar world not so long ago no longer exists. A child in 2020 doesn't imagine that a phone ever needed a cable, that it took several days to message someone, or that it used physical media to store small amounts of data. Yep…

What does it change?

Of course, Industry 4.0, in line with “3.0” advances, enables the performance of industrial processes to be optimized. Communication between machines, between machines and humans, remote access and controls, the collection of a multitude of data in real time, the modeling of processes make it possible to optimise existing systems in a very significant way. Saving time, better use of resources, better control of processes, preventive maintenance are some of the benefits that can be achieved.

Moreover, by going further, the conjunction of IoT (Internet of Things), IoS (Internet of Services) and IoP (Internet of People) is an opportunity to completely rethink industrial models and business. New paradigms are becoming possible in terms of needs, manufacturing processes, modes of delivery and consumption, management of resources and the environment ...

Information exchanges (voluntary or not) between businesses and Internet users are creating new models that shake up traditional standards. Thus, we have seen urban transport, retail, hospitality, finance and many others completely reinvented.

And what about us in Tunisia?

solar energy Tunisian genius technology
Tunisian genius at work - a solar powered tent-shop ⓒVitaminn

Industry 4.0 is therefore a very broad topic and we are only beginning to see its potential and its impacts. Its adoption requires significant efforts for companies, and not just financial, because it is about a fundamental change, and first and foremost for the men and women of the company.

The Tunisian industrial tool is well anchored in 2.0. This relative "delay" is in fact a big advantage, as the players are not weighed down by heavy capital and history. This advantage combined with the high level of technical skills of the country gives a lot of agility to go from 2.0 to 4.0.

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