It’s efficient, digital, sustainable, connected, and smart. But what exactly is Industry 4.0? It’s the buzzword surrounding the fourth – and completely digital – revolution. After the steam engine and the assembly line, the computer brought about the third industrial revolution. Now, digitalization is transforming the industrial process once more. By taking advantage of this rise in automation, sensorics, data exchange and analytics in real time, companies are producing and delivering products smarter, faster and more efficiently, thereby opening a new world of possibilities.

Digitalization: Setting the foundation for success

The foundation for the next industrial age rests in digitalization. With the Cloud, factories and warehouses can be connected and share large amounts of data across sites and company boundaries within the span of a few milliseconds. This same decentralized technology is used to create a trusted, traceable and tamperproof way for people to submit their transactions, called blockchain.

By using sensors and data analytics, machines can actually start “learning” how to be more efficient in their processes. This type of ability in technology is called artificial intelligence, which captures data, identifies trends and enhances the quality and performance of manufacturing plants. With more than 3,500 sensors in more than 180 factories, Henkel computers can gather information on sustainability, efficiency, quality and safety in real-time and allow for cloud-based analytics for diagnostics, predictions and prescriptions.

Throughout the entire value chain, data can be constantly exchanged, which allows for optimal resource planning and allocation. Processes and components can be standardized and digitally connected, turning the dream of the “smart factory” into a reality.

Logistics: Paving the way to better service

Due to the change in how customers and consumers order their products, it also changes the logistics of how the company delivers their purchases. To simplify and streamline the logistic process, all parts of it will be automized, which reduces errors and the time needed to deliver the products.

Once pallets of products reach warehouses via conveyor technology, they are identified by scan and stored. Orders from customers are subsequently transmitted electronically and the products are then prepared for further transport using automated trolleys. Because the products are scanned at the beginning of the shipping process, they can be traced from production to warehouse, all the way to the consumer’s delivery.

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Sustainability: Decreasing the footprint, but leaving a lasting impact

By digitalizing and automizing manufacturing and shipping, paper in factories is arbitrary. Once paper is removed, it reduces the CO2 footprint of the production sites. Even more impressive is the use of the Internet of Things within factories. Data collected from sensors in the factories alert employees to which parts of the production line could be optimized. These types of environmental management systems, among other functions, reduce filling line waste and eliminate incorrect labeling.

For example, utilizing adapted smart home technology in production sites allows Henkel to track weather conditions to adjust the overall manufacturing process. With this data, the production sites can use resources like gas and water more sustainably. The company also launched an environmental management system.

The use of robots can make it easier to produce and check high-quality products, which ultimately increases efficiency.

The use of robots can make it easier to produce and check high-quality products, which ultimately increases efficiency.

What comes next? Looking to the future

With digitalization on the rise, the jobs of today are changing. Different types of technology are simplifying and improving processes to increase efficiency and sustainability. The work culture is changing, too, as agility, flexibility and a “test-and-learn” philosophy replace rigid structures. New professions are emerging, and additional skills are brought to bear. To stay ahead of the curve, Henkel will offer opportunities to upskill its employees including webinars and video programs. In some cases, augmented and virtual reality programs are also used to give employees a taste of how the factory works from start to finish.

Industry 4.0 is already in full swing. And Henkel will leverage projects and activities in this area going forward – from planning, sourcing and production to the delivery of its products and solutions.

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