Industry 5.0 – The Next Phase of the Industrial Revolution

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From the mechanised looms and steam engines of the 18th Century through to the cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) systems of modern times, industrial technologies have come a long way.

The developed world, as well as numerous emerging economies, have both successfully embraced the fourth stage of the industrial revolution – and are now reaping its rewards. Among these are the realisation of major improvements in efficiency and productivity, as well as less wastage and improved product quality.

In addition, Industry 4.0 has acted as a catalyst for the emergence of new technologies, in relation to robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and biotechnology, amongst others.

However, things never stand still, and experts are already talking about the next stage of industrialisation – which they refer to as Industry 5.0. They are convinced that organisations should seriously start paying attention to the manufacturing principles behind this.

What is Industry 5.0?

Industry 4.0 was focused specifically on implementing higher degrees of automation into industrial systems, to raise production output. Industry 5.0, however, brings other dimensions. It puts much greater emphasis on people, business resilience and sustainability, relying on a more nuanced approach.

Unlike its predecessor, one of the key objectives here is to support regular human-machine interaction, so that meaningful collaboration results. On top of this, it is much better aligned with the green agenda – and looks to ensure that industrial activity no longer has a negative impact on the environment.

Here are some of the key aspects that it will encompass:

  • Industry 5.0 places human resources as the most important element of a factory’s operations. It acknowledges the creative potential that humans have and their ability to adapt to different circumstances (based on prior experience). Therefore, by them joining forces with machines (which are better at repetitive tasks, do not tire, or make errors), it is possible to create an optimal production partnership – with each side playing to its own respective strengths.
  • This next wave of the industrial revolution will incorporate flexible and adaptive technologies and ensure resilient supply chains. In the aftermath of the global COVID pandemic, corporations and legislative policymakers are finally waking up to the importance of having intelligent distribution channels to support the manufacturing and processing sectors.
  • One of the most important features of Industry 5.0 is long-term sustainability. It recognizes the ecological effects that manufacturing work can have, and argues for the development of greener technologies and the creation of eco-friendly policies to address this.

Industry 5.0 is not just meant to be a ‘feel-good’, or a way for companies to tick another corporate responsibility box. It has immense benefits for those that fully embrace its principles. In the next section, we will look closer at what these are.

Understanding the Advantages of Industry 5.0

In terms of what Industry 5.0 will mean for companies, and what the implications of its adoption will be, here are some of the main points they need to be aware of:

  • Increased Competitiveness: Industry 5.0 tackles the challenges of employee skills and training needs, and will enable companies to attract and retain the best talent available in their sector.
  • Hyper-Personalization: As already mentioned, the most critical aspect of Industry 5.0 is humans and machines working together. People will be empowered to make decisions and apply their ideas, while leveraging the power of machines to design/construct highly customized products for end-users.
  • Profitability: With robots and human workers combining their strengths in speed, accuracy and creativity, businesses will generate more revenue than they could via outdated legacy industrial practices.
  • Environment Friendliness: More than any other phase of the industrial revolution’s long history, Industry 5.0 highlights sustainability as a major concern. It encourages efficient use of renewable sources of energy, a circular economy and distributed production, so as to protect the environment and address climate change.

Nevertheless, without addressing certain issues, companies will find it difficult to apply the Industry 5.0 concepts on their shop floors. This is why appropriate implementation practices will be paramount.

Implementation of Industry 5.0

A key approach to integrating Industry 5.0 into companies’ workflows will be through the up-skilling and retraining of staff. Organizations need to ensure their workers are adequately educated in emerging and advanced technologies, in order for them to be able to offer assistance to their robotic co-workers.

The fact that digital education has become more accessible, and also affordable, will help to accelerate this process. Because of it, employees are likely to be encouraged to learn, refreshing their knowledge and adding to their list of capabilities.

Investing in research and development of green technologies and intelligent devices is also crucial. Collaborative robots (or cobots), which will be covered in more detail later in this guide, are one of the finest examples of how humans can interact with machines in a safe and efficient working environment. Equally important is for stakeholders to promote circular production models that involve repurposing and recycling resources, so that waste generation is reduced.

While Industry 5.0 is still in a nascent stage, a few visionary companies have started applying its principles.

Real World Examples

The European Union (EU) has established the Industry 5.0 Award to encourage its progression. This will annually honor EU-funded projects that underline the potential benefits that can be derived from Industry 5.0 implementation. Some of the projects nominated for this award so far have focused on areas like cybersecurity, recycling and ergonomics.

Industrial automation heavyweight ABB has placed itself at the forefront of Industry 5.0. This is thanks to the cobot units it is already offering to the market, as well as sophisticated operation management systems. Siemens is another large-scale company that has made a major commitment here, providing products and services in healthcare, logistics and construction that incorporate elements of Industry 5.0.

Opinion is admittedly still divided as to whether Industry 5.0 is the next phase in the industrial revolution, or more of a complement to Industry 4.0 with some added facets included. What is undoubtedly true though is that the global pandemic and the economic turmoil that has come with it have compelled organisations to consider embarking on the transition to Industry 5.0.

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