8 October 2020, by Pierre Taljaard 

Industry 4.0 is a specialised field of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It creates fertile ground for new business models, yet there are several issues to consider for decision-making in this ecosystem. Pierre Taljaard shares some thoughts

Industry 4.0 refers to a new transformation of industrial value chains. The concept is based on a network of Smart machines that bridge the physical and digital world through cyber-physical systems that can make autonomous decisions. Production processes are optimised through information systems, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud Computing and others.

We are already seeing some of the practical implementations of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT) and The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with new applications coming on-stream at an almost exponential rate.
The potential applications for Industry 4.0 are infinite and there are many players attempting to claim a stake in this fertile land.

The Global Industry 4.0 Market is Expected to Reach USD 156.6 Billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 16.9% from 2019 to 2024 – ResearchAndMarkets.com

Will this replace labour, as was feared by the Luddites during the Industrial Revolution? Or will it create new jobs that even today are beyond our imagination?
What needs to be understood is that Artificial Intelligence is a tool that needs to be educated with experience and knowledge acquired by humans. It is especially the tacit knowledge that is difficult to quantify and transfer into AI.
Tacit knowledge can be likened to human abilities such as language, playing a musical instrument or riding a bicycle, which are mostly difficult, and sometimes impossible, to transfer to other people. Transferring this knowledge to an AI system becomes infinitely more difficult. In fact, just capturing tacit knowledge is one of the major obstacles in knowledge management.

“By far the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it.”
Eliezer Yudkowsky, Co-founder and Research Fellow, Machine Intelligence Research Institute

Before making any kind of financial investment in Industry 4.0, whether directly or indirectly, it is necessary to understand the involvement of people with the necessary and extensive industry knowledge. Without this human knowledge and in-depth experience of industry AI can never be applied effectively. To quote Dr Stephen Covey’s 2nd Habit in this context: Begin with the end in mind.
To put it practically, develop AI systems to fit the application, do not attempt to fit an industrial process to available AI systems.

Pierre Taljaard is a metallurgic engineer. He lives and works in the Netherlands.