The dawn of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is already accelerating productivity in industry and putting sustainability center stage. We look at the benefits.
By Chris Johnson, SVP and Global Head of Enterprise at Nokia
As seen in Economist Impact
Industrial revolutions have defined human history, from harnessing water and steam power to electrifying production processes and introducing computing across many industries.
The third revolution represented a profound leap in productive capacity, but while agile sectors such as banking and media readily adopted the newly-available technologies, heavy industry – from mining to brewing to freight – was too complex to take full advantage.
This is no longer the case, and the world is now at a tipping point where major industry is truly digitizing. Accelerated by a combination of technological advancement, sector readiness, and external pressures such as the global pandemic, recent months have seen exponential growth in the adoption of smart technologies and seamless networks.
The scale of this shift is unlike anything seen before, heralding the dawn of Industry 4.0 – a fully automated and more sustainable vision for the future.
A seismic shift in productivity
“It looks like this shift will have a greater impact on industry than the arrival of the internet, which in many ways was just an augmentation of how things were done before,” explains Chris Johnson, head of Nokia's Global Enterprise Business. “Industry 4.0 is not an augmentation: it’s a completely different economic model.”
Leveraging decades of expertise in network delivery, Nokia is leading the way in making the Industry 4.0 promise a reality. “Productive potential has been severely limited by operating through legacy systems such as cables and wifi, which weren’t designed for our mobile world,” says Chris Johnson.
“Nokia provides asset-intensive industries with cloud-based solutions that can seamlessly integrate a global network of people, machines, and devices through 4G and 5G.”
Switching to these systems makes industry more agile, resilient, and sustainable – essential qualities if businesses are not only to survive but thrive in the 21st century.
“This work requires deep expertise in each sector vertical to understand how technology can create the greatest transformations, and we then operate through far-reaching partnerships which are essential to ensure adoption,” Chris Johnson explains. “This combination of verticalisation and partnership is the foundation of Industry 4.0 success.”
He also points to the subscription model of Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) as helping industrial partners leap. “It means the original capital outlay is easily justifiable, and the return on investment can be measured in months – a small number of months, in most cases. It’s become a technological shift that can’t be refused anymore.”
This innovative approach has seen Nokia work with a wide range of industrial partners, from Tideworks Technology at the Port of Seattle in the USA and Peru’s Minera Las Bambas – one of the world’s largest copper mines – to Germany’s Lufthansa Technik, Volkswagen, and Deutsche Bahn railways.
While geographically remote and spanning vastly different sectors, each is experiencing profound benefits from digitalization. Recent research from Nokia’s Bell Labs Consulting finds that safety, productivity, and efficiency improve elevenfold for manufacturing, ninefold for logistics, sixfold for agriculture, and fivefold for mining when shifting to 5G technology.
Putting sustainability center stage
“It’s easy to make a case for Industry 4.0 based on metrics around productivity, efficiency, worker safety, and so forth – these could be described as ‘self-serving’ goals and are easy for a business to quantify,” says Chris Johnson. “What we see more and more of, however, is an awareness of the sustainable benefits of applying our technology. This isn’t a fleeting PR focus, but a long-term industrial trend.”
A combination of youth movements, nationally enforced carbon reduction emissions, and flashpoint events such as COP26 mean sustainability are no longer a ‘nice to have’ for big business.
Recent field testing undertaken by Nokia and Telefonica found that 5G networks are up to 90% more energy efficient per traffic unit than legacy 4G wireless networks. Another research paper from the mobile industry body GSMA and the Carbon Trust found that the reduction in emissions for sectors that adopted 5G would dwarf any additional emissions created by such networks by a factor of ten.
“Industry 4.0 technology is an essential foundation for any sustainable future vision,” says Ken Budka, Nokia’s Bell Labs Consulting senior partner. “We’re looking at increasing renewables and reducing carbon, but also at electrifying huge swathes of the economy – from transportation to construction – at a pace that has never been seen before.
“To make this vision a reality, we need the capability to deploy, operate, measure, and monitor far more seamlessly. There is no green without digital, and there is no net zero without Industry 4.0.”
By creating an orchestrated grid from previously widely distributed and unreliable energy sources, the ambitious national network currently underway in Germany – 450connect GmbH – shows how this could look in practice. “This automation of everything will give humans new superpowers, helping to augment human ingenuity in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges,” says Ken Budka.
A bold future vision
Terms such as ‘new normal’ and ‘build back better,’ are now bandied so freely that much meaning has been lost. One thing is clear: as the world recalibrates from the global crisis, things cannot return to business as usual.
The last few years have catalyzed underlying technological trends, forcing an innovation leap of years or even decades in months. Major industry is now finally at a watershed where digital transformation has become inevitable.
“Through technological innovation, we can impact sustainability, human safety, efficiency and productivity,” says Chris Johnson. “It’s an incredibly complex ecosystem, but I believe our unique combination of sector expertise, far-reaching partnerships, and technological excellence can bring about lasting transformation.” By tackling a wide range of complex issues simultaneously – from the commercial to the ecological – the dawn of Industry 4.0 may prove a clear way to build a better future.