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The evolution of smart factories

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices.
Worker putting boxes together on shelves in modern warehouse
© QUB

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology.

Industrial Revolution, From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0

The industrial revolution from industry 1.0 to industry 4.0 defines the changes in the way humans produce things. Over time, production has changed from handcraft to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing.

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  • Industry 1.0: The transition from hand production methods to new manufacturing processes powered by water and steam.

  • Industry 2.0: By the beginning of the 20th Century, electricity became the primary source of power, allowing for more sophisticated machines.

  • Industry 3.0: The use of electronics and information technology (IT) to further automate production.

  • Industry 4.0: Connects the internet of things (IoT) with manufacturing techniques to enable machines to share information, analyse it and use it to guide intelligent actions. Key elements of Industry 4.0 include:

  • Cyber-physical system: A mechanical device that is run by computer-based algorithms.
  • The Internet of things (IoT): Interconnected networks of machine devices and vehicles embedded with computerized sensing, scanning and monitoring capabilities
  • Cloud computing: Offsite network hosting and data backup.
  • Cognitive computing — technological platforms that employ artificial intelligence.

The food industry is begining to recognise the benefits of industry 4.0 and there are signs of growth of these technologies within the food industry for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and the production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.

The Smart Factory

Industry 4.0, powered by data and automation technology, can transform every step of food manufacturinhg. Factories with intelligent equipment that can talk and respond to the real world conditions in which they operate in, driving productivity, reducing food waste and increasing profits.

Examples of industry 4.0 in food manufacturing are:

  • Delivery

Digitial technologies in the delivery of raw materials into a food manufacturing buisness can help identify and track the delivery of raw materials; recognize and sort raw materials based on their quality and freshness; and facilitate stock control, i.e. order, receive and track raw food ingredients.

  • Processing

Digital technology allows precision processing; and presents new opportunities for personalization of food products, linked to consumer requests.

  • Packaging and Storage

Digitial technologies allows intelligent packaging for bespoke traceable food products; facilitates self-regulation of the storage environment based on the optimum conditions for food products; and and auto-robotics for picking and packing.

  • Distribution

Digital technology can help in the ordering, receiving and tracing inputs.

What we would like you to do

Please watch this short video on smart factories to increase your knowledge and understanding of industry 4.0.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

© QUB
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Revolutionising the Food Chain with Technology

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