Will our world reach a point where won’t be possible to improve the technological techniques anymore? The Industrial revolutions always lead to changes the technological processes of many companies and, in particular the fourth one, has come to light “Industry 4.0”, expression used to indicate a current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies: it is a digital transformation applied to manufacturing, that gives birth to what is called “smart factory”.
Production has changed over the course of history, and every single period is characterized by a Revolution, which includes developments, in terms of new technical means. Society has arrived to the fourth one, starting from the emergence of mechanization and other inventions such us new know-how in metal shaping, which gradually drew up the blueprints for the first factories and cities.
Industry 4.0 originates in Germany in 2011 from a project of the government to promote computerization and innovation and it has been put into practice with successful results, but not everywhere: Italy wants to reach the same results, but this is possible just if Italian companies will work on subjects like flexibility and if they open themselves to innovation.
This new trend helps companies to create custom solutions and make a better use of resources; to make this possible companies should:
- Combine data from both internal and external sources to improve decision making processes; this means collecting vast quantities of data, and their analysis and exploitation, either immediately on the factory floor, or throughout big data analysis and cloud computing;
- Develop competencies to better integrate IT and OT within the organization: should be created a great ICT- based support for human workers, including robot and intelligent tools;
- Make production process information available through the network, charts and dashboards: this means that would be better to schedule the production operations;
- Develop network communications including wireless and internet technologies that serve link machines, work products, system and people.
These trials are supported by an IT system, called MES (Manufacturing Execution System), the link to fill the gap that there was before “Industry 4.0” between the business level, on one side, and the executive one, on the other side. MES refers to software systems and gather strategic information to understand how production can be optimized: it’s one of the technology drivers of this Industrial Revolution.
Other technological supports of Industry 4.0 are:
- Industrial Internet, a network of machines and products, which makes possible a multidirectional communication between networked objects
- Cloud, that allows users to manage huge data volumes in a open system, sharing pools of configurable resources
- Cyber- security, a set of measures taken to protect computers, programs and data from unauthorized access; it’s a high level of networking between products and systems.
The advantages of this system are:
- It is possible to analyse production in real time. This takes to an increased productivity, thanks to reduced downtimes
- Higher flexibility thanks to economies of scale of mass production
- Communication between different business levels becomes easier
- Higher competitiveness of products given by additional functionalities enabled by Internet of Things
- Traceability of the product in real time
- Paperless process management
Moreover, the 2017 Budget Law gives new opportunities for high tech investment in support of Industry 4.0. To those companies that decide to invest in tangible assets, is given the access to an over- amortization of 140%, while for intangible assets is allowed a 250% tax benefit.
In order to obtain this concession, the legal representative must declare that the assets have the technical features prescribed by the law.
The just mentioned law has a quite similar aim of “Nuova Sabatini”: it states that industries which are going to buy new assets, can draw on the funds provided, whose value is of about 500 million Euros. The latest term until industries can ask funds to the Government is 31 December 2018; it will respond to their needs until expected money ends.
At least, other concessions are related to the innovative start- ups diffusion: in fact, they are helped throughout tax deductions of up to 30% for investments of up to 1.000.000 (Euros).
For sure, these are ambitious and sharable goals: on one side, “Industry 4.0” brings innovation and it helps start- ups to grow, but on the other side has to be valued the impact that “Industry 4.0” could have on our society, in terms of reduction of job positions, for example, as a consequence of a more technological production process.