Industry 4.0 is described as the fourth industrial revolution and is a wide concept that ranges from smart manufacturing to data mining, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Industry 4.0 refers to the digitization of the manufacturing industry, making use of a wide array of information technologies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of production through the integration with Information Technology (IT), cloud computing, and various information services. The term Industry 4.0 was originally invented by German industry associations, which used it to describe the digital transformation of manufacturing enterprises. Over the years, Industry 4.0 has evolved to a wider strategic approach to the development of digitally enabled factories and their interconnection as part of manufacturing value chains. As such it jointly addresses a set of goals and objectives in the context of business and economic policy, while enabling the establishment of entire ecosystems and networks of business partners. Such Industry 4.0 ecosystems are formed all around the globe and are gradually changing the way enterprises perceive manufacturing, organizing large-scale production systems, influencing the range of manufacturing designs, and are ultimately reshaping global value chains and markets. From a practical perspective, the establishment of partner ecosystems in the Industry 4.0 era is based on the deployment of cutting-edge digital technologies i.e. the “digital enablers” of the fourth industrial revolution and of the operation of smart factories.
The core Industry 4.0 technologies include cloud computing, edge computing, Internet of Things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are interrelated, with each one complementing the other to create an intelligent enterprise ecosystem that can monitor its environment and take action to optimize production processes in real-time. Specifically, the main digital enablers of the industrial revolution 4.0 are:
The above-listed digital components and technologies, enable Industry 4.0 partner ecosystems to implement a wide range of value-added use cases. Prominent examples include:
A value chain is a set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product or service for the market. In Industry 4.0, the value chain continues to be an important element of reference, albeit it is now extended throughout the whole connected ecosystem of actors involved in delivering the final product or service to customers. The main characteristic of the industry 4.0 value chains is the trusted and interoperable exchange of information between different actors (customers, suppliers, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), MROs (Maintenance and Repair Operations), etc.) in order to improve design and manufacturing processes and reduce time-to-market. This kind of value chain is enabled through interconnected smart devices with digital capabilities gathering data from different physical sources (i.e., machine to machine communications) and feeding them into various software solutions that can manage, analyze, process and transform them into valuable insights for all actors involved in the production cycle. Overall, Industry 4.0 value chains and partner ecosystems differ from legacy supply chains due to their following characteristics:
To sum up, Industry 4.0 partner ecosystems bring together a variety of stakeholders to produce new opportunities and develop innovative solutions based on novel digital application platforms. During the next decade, Industry 4.0 will usher in a new model of development that opens broad possibilities for actors who want to create industrial and economic change as part of their digital transformation strategy. Nevertheless, even though Industry 4.0 creates many opportunities, it also poses challenges for some industries because the rate of innovation often exceeds their companies’ ability to adapt. Regardless, Industry 4.0 is poised to change how businesses operate across all industries and countries, bringing more efficiency and better products to the marketplace everywhere. This is the reason why modern enterprises cannot afford to ignore Industry 4.0 value chain but should rather strive to become part of them the soonest possible.
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