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Factories embrace Industry 4.0

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0. No matter what you call it, digital technology has upended the way automakers and suppliers do business.

Mercedes-Benz has defined Industry 4.0 as “networking the entire automotive value chain — from design, through production, to sales and service.”

Boston Consulting Group has identified nine technologies that are driving Industry 4.0:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Augmented reality
  • Autonomous robots
  • Big data and analytics
  • The cloud
  • Cybersecurity
  • Horizontal and vertical system integration
  • The Industrial Internet of Things
  • Simulation

Here are some of the ways the industry has incorporated these innovations.

Survival, a self-driving robot, at a Ford body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, in 2019. It can carry spare parts and welding material.

Workers at BMW’s Munich Pilot Plant can overlay real objects with holographic 3D models.

Czech automaker Skoda used a “digital twin” to help it install and integrate a new robot station at a component plant in Vrchlabi.

A salute to “Star Trek”: Audi created a walkable “holodeck” that allows engineers to assess virtually the design of new models at an early stage.

Working with supplier Mahle and industrial machine maker Trumpf, Porsche used 3-D printing technology to create pistons for the high-performance engine of the 911 GT2 RS. Below, a laser beam heats and melts metal powder as the piston is formed.