What is Industry 5.0?
The term Industry 5.0 refers to people working alongside robots and smart machines. It’s about robots helping humans work better and faster by leveraging advanced technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. It adds a personal human touch to the Industry 4.0 pillars of automation and efficiency.
In manufacturing environments, robots have historically performed dangerous, monotonous or physically demanding work, such as welding and painting in car factories and loading and unloading heavy materials in warehouses. As machines in the workplace get smarter and more connected, Industry 5.0 is aimed at merging those cognitive computing capabilities with human intelligence and resourcefulness in collaborative operations.
The Danish company Universal Robots staked its claim as the first provider of industrial robots that work safely and effectively alongside humans. Whereas industrial robots have traditionally operated separately from workers and behind safety cages, the company’s robots were first deployed alongside human workers in 2008 at Linatex, a supplier of technical plastics and rubber for industrial applications. (1)
The pairing of human and machine workers opens the door to countless opportunities in manufacturing. And since the use cases of Industry 5.0 are still in their relative infancy, manufacturers should be actively strategizing ways to integrate human and machine workers in order to maximize the unique benefits that can be reaped as the movement continues to evolve.
The rise of intelligent automation
Before we generalize whether digitalization will robotize manufacturing and determine whether it is good or bad for the industry, let us go through what led to this scenario. A brief description of the four historic industrial revolutions would help us understand where the manufacturing industry is headed and what would differentiate the next one, taking shape over the next two decades, ‘Industry 5.0.’
Industry 1.0: The first industrial revolution began in the 1700s with the introduction of engines powered by water, steam, and coal, which moved the economy away from agriculture to industrial production, which eventually paved the way for the first factories.
Industry 2.0: By the 1870s, industrialization had moved on to the second revolution with the use of new-found energy resources such as oil, electricity, and gas. Industry 2.0 gained momentum with the electrification of the assembly lines for mass production. This period was revolutionized with the invention of the telegraph and the telephone, which enabled long-distance communications possible.
Industry 3.0: Almost a century later, in the 1970s, industrialists began to use electronics and computers in manufacturing. The third industrial revolution made use of microprocessors, information technology, and robots for a high level of automation in production. Soon there was a surge in globalization and manufacturing outsourcing due to the availability of skilled labor and lower production costs.
Industry 4.0: The fourth industrial revolution, dubbed as the ‘information revolution,’ introduced the concept of digitalization and integrated it into manufacturing. The advent of connected devices and technologies such as cyber-physical systems (CPS), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), data analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) made the factories much more efficient and smarter.
According to technical reports, automation of manufacturing processes has cut down the costs of production, quality, and logistics by up to 30%. It has also transformed the management and governance of manufactured goods and products through digitalized supply chain management, predictive maintenance, intelligent inventory management, and effective resource management.
The priory assumption is that these technologies would make functions obsolete. And that, more automation would lead to standardization and, therefore, less human intervention. However, the Industry 4.0 implementation is not without challenges. Although enterprises have been aspiring to setup near-total automated factories and take advantage of cost savings.
Benefits of Industry 5.0:
- It aims to correct the previous industrial revolution by developing technologies in a human-centric way. It empowers workers instead of replacing them with machines.
- Cobots (collaborative robots), which are people-focused robots will take care of the monotonous or unsafe tasks and humans will refine the work. So, humans will have control over everything.
- The fifth industrial revolution focuses on protecting the environment too by focusing on sustainable manufacturing, circular economy, resilient business models etc.
- It allows hyper-customization to improve the customer experience. It means consumers will have more personalized products.
- Industry 5.0 increases the profits of companies because cobots and humans work together to make the best decisions to achieve more profits from fewer resources.
Need for a ‘human touch’ revolution
The concept of human and machines working in tandem could be possible when we break the manufacturing assembly line into two parts:
- Using robots for repetitive and labor-intensive work
- Using humans for customization and thinking radically out of the box
Perils of Industry 5.0
There is an argument that machines could customize the products by analyzing historical data and patterns and bringing in technologies based on machine learning and AI. This argument is partly valid, but technology cannot be a replacement for human intelligence, and they would play a different role.
Contrary to the assumption that people would lose jobs to AI, studies show different statistics. The future technologies are estimated to contribute to the expansion of the global manufacturing workforce by up to 4% by 2030 from the present 1.2 billion people. The supply chain management across industries would also become more agile and innovative due to increased investments in R&D, intelligent sales and marketing, distribution, and reduce the price for the value delivered.
Thus far, in Industry 4.0, companies globally are automating the production setups and connecting smart devices to let them communicate with each other digitally. This has enabled the machines to carry out repetitive and burdensome tasks. The upcoming Industry 5.0 would be about bridging the gap between robots and highly-skilled workforces to produce and deliver the best-individualized products, services, and customer experiences possible. Here, human intervention would be intellectual rather than physical.
Companies and individuals that not only survive but thrive are the ones that embrace the change and adapt accordingly. This perception has been rightly emphasized by the American futurist and businessman, Alvin Toffler, who said: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’
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