What do we expect from Industry 4.0 products?

Guido Belforte – 

The industrial revolution developed by Industry 4.0 is progressively changing the outline of production means and their organization. This project is broadly debated, analysing its implications and the technologies that are gradually implemented and used to make industries more interconnected and to speed up operational practices, making them more efficient.

Definitions of the meaning of this process are expressed, too, and the implications of the new information systems, interconnected on the entire manufacturing and managerial net, are evaluated several times, encompassing all the aspects concerning technical, information safety, ethical problems and so on.

All that anyway leads to an outlet: the manufacturing of industrial products intended for various markets. Well, what implications on manufactured goods derive from that? There are not many information about the characteristics or the performances that such goods are expected to have, or if, in some ways, the industry 4.0 production will differ from the one carried out without this type of system. However, the performances and the quality of final products are precisely what final purchasers and end-users will perceive of all that.

End-users are not generally technicians but perhaps they have heard in some way what is developed and they tend to perceive what happens according to their wishes. Having listened to relatives’ and friends’ speeches absolutely informally, it is possible to deduce various indications but a recurrent element is the expectation that a perfect manufacturing system produces perfect products. What we expect might be a product with stable features in time, of undefined duration and never breaking down.

An absolutely reliable service life is a real concrete challenge, obviously limited in time owing to problems connected with reliability itself or the obsolescence of the product. If we follow this guideline, the prospect is having stable, safe and reliable products with a limited life in time, characterized by being still perfectly efficient when disposed and at the start of a likely programmed demolition. Then, this will occur paying great attention to the recovery of parts and materials to recycle all that is possible.

This trend seems to prevail for high-end products or articles connected with particular use conditions, for instance medical devices, which need to be certified in time and defined in their operational life. Diagnostics, maintenance and operational life are all aspects of the same problem well aligned with the philosophy of Industry 4.0.

It is fundamental to ponder this concept and engineers and automated system operators should constantly introduce this element (service life) in their choices.

In addition to this trend, there is, however, a second development line, which is catching on also in relation to general economic conditions, and it is the line providing for the recovery and the commissioning of expired and/or damaged products, to be sold at discounted price for a new service life. This is happening in the case of household appliances, which do not require particular certifications apart from general safety conditions, for which are developing companies that recover the efficiency of washing machines, dishwashers and other second-hand devices at very low prices, thus addressing a certain range of users.

Here are two trendy lines, with guaranteed and expiring products and second-hand products recovered for a new operational life. Will this be the future? The hope is that all leads to higher efficacy and good satisfaction for the users of the various products.