Industry 4.0 (originally germ. Industrie 4.0) or shortened, as in the rest of the text, I4 is name for Fourth industrial revolution. Before I4 there were, of course, three previous revolutions which are marking big changes in industrial production. The First one was in 80s in 18th century when water and steam became primary fuel for production. Considering transition happened from hand working, time was necessary for new technologies to be accepted in production. First ones were textile industry, iron industry and agriculture. Second revolution is age of mass production. Butterfly effect happened with mass production of steel, which caused growth of railways which caused more connection between people and caused spread of mass production. Changes that I mentioned caused great economic growth, but also caused growth of unemployment because many workers were replaced with machines. Third or digital revolution happened as result of development computing and information and communication technologies. It brought many changes in everyday jobs and shaped the world as we know it.
I4 means development of automated and completely autonomous, intelligent systems which will communicate with each other, but also with operating personnel. It requires absolute digitalization and complete use of communication possibilities so it can reach its maximum and make development of industrial production faster.
If we want to reach that level of I4, it is required to develop I4 elements which make it what it is – autonomous robots, big data technologies, IoT (internet of things, system of connected devices, machines, objects, people with communication possibility and data transfer without direct contact), cloud data storages, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and many others. All those I4 characteristics are connected inside CPS (cyber-physical systems), which is system what integrates networking, digitalization and physical processes of named elements.
Even this still seems like a distant future, as of today, many I4 elements are used in everyday life, not only in industry. 3D printing can be seen at Faculty of electrical engineering and computing in Zagreb, online sale companies like Amazon, e-Bay, Wish, ordering food deliveries and other necessities, using cloud storages for photos, audios or videos – development of this everyday bits of life caused development of I4 itself.
Considering that I4 is still developing, there are some open questions that we are still encountering – how will the world look like when I4 reaches its full capacity?, how to organize management and resources?, how one branch on I4 influences the other? and many others.
Many scientific articles about I4 that are published were mostly focused on two branches – economical branch and ecological branch. Social, humanistic, possibility of innovations, strategies of management, political are just some of many elements which were not mentioned, but they are getting to the surface and they are opening new questions about I4 that need to be answered.
Some of the problems that I4 is dealing with have no sight of resolving. Economical branch, of course, was most dealt with, but price of implementation of these systems is still too great to guarantee investors that their money will be returned and that they will make some more. And it goes on, losing privacy because of surveillance growth, artificial intelligence, growth of unemployment because of automation, especially for blue collars. Moving on, impossibility of regulation, problems with standards and work certificates, managers on top of the hierarchy are becoming redundant, any errors in IT systems can cause great losses, same as errors in cyber security systems or firewalls.
In Croatia I4 also, at least in theory, is developing. Smart factories are still rarity, many business meetings are organized, university lessons are focusing more on it, Croatian chamber of economy on its web site has documents dedicated to I4 and its primary characteristics.
In practical world situation is somewhat different – Croatia is still far away from I4. Less than 30% of industry can be called part of industry 3.0, while general picture shows we are still in the age of industry 2.0. If we compare it to the rest of EU, it is even more visible. European parliament made four groups of countries, based on their I4 engagement and potential – first group are leading countries and those are Germany, Sweden, Austria and Ireland, countries with potential are Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, UK and France, traditional countries are Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Lithuania. The last group are countries called hesitators and those are Italy, Spain, Estonia, Portugal, Poland, Bulgaria and Croatia. They are considered hesitators because they don’t have industrial base good enough or they don’t have economical resources sufficient for further growth. Croatian problem is also that it is allowing many of its I4 workers to leave for Germany or Ireland and supplying their growth instead of its own.
Although I4 is still at its beginning, there are many challenges in its implementation. With good preparation, critical reading of already written scientific articles and making new ones, I4 has potential to change the world we live in today. Good strategy is required, that is considering all the aspects and transition period which is required to make organizational changes possible – difference before and after I4 transition should make companies unrecognizable.
I4 has possibility to change our everyday life, but with bad management and strategies it can also endanger economy, production or society in general. It all depends on us how we will deal with I4 and how serious we will consider it.