“Industry 4.0 is coming, the data revolution, with everything connected and in continuous communication”, Irene Ferri


“Industry 4.0 is coming, the data revolution, with everything connected and in continuous communication”, Irene Ferri

29 June 2023

The first control system device was the Flyball Governor designed by James Watt in 1767. It was invented with the aim of keeping the speed of the engine constant by regulating the supply of steam to the engine.
A control system is a set of mechanical or electronic devices that regulate other devices or systems by means of control loops. It provides the desired response by controlling the output.
The advancement of Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is made possible by intelligent access control systems and electronic security.
At MindDen, we contribute to the development of this new industrial revolution. Among all our teams, one of them is dedicated to the implementation of these control systems in the "Industry 4.0" department.
We had a pleasant chat with Irene Ferri, graduate in electrical engineering and head of the department, who enlightens us on different points about what is Industry 4.0, the new reality that implies a paradigm shift.

How do you define the concept of Industry 4.0 and what change does it represent?

Industry 4.0 is the evolution of automation. It is worth remembering the developments prior to this revolution. The first revolution replaced human power with steam and water-powered machines; the second revolution introduced electricity, assembly lines and mass production; the third revolution saw the introduction of automation, programming and electronics, which brought about a major change in the efficiency of companies. And now comes Industry 4.0, the data revolution, having everything connected and in continuous communication.

There are many technologies used by Industry 4.0, of which we must highlight: Internet of things, cloud computing, big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and cybersecurity. The use of these technologies helps to optimise processes and systems in factories.

Smart grids connect and communicate the entire supply chain for decision-making without the need for human intervention. Continuous control is carried out in real time, to increase productivity and efficiency, improve the product, have greater profitability, avoid losses, achieve the best customer satisfaction, etc.

To summarise more generally, it is the capture and recording of data that will be used to create traceability from the beginning to the end of the supply chain and, thus, to analyse them in order to improve both the process and the final product.

How many people make up the “Industry 4.0” department and what projects do you carry out?

At the moment, there are 18 of us in the department, which focuses on control systems. We are involved in the standardisation of sewage treatment plants.

Some focus on creating a simple, user-friendly interface, easy access and fast data capture. This facilitates the detection of errors and important variables that are reflected in the performance of the plants. Other colleagues are dedicated to developing and improving in-house and external applications to find optimal solutions and improve customer service.

What impact has Industry 4.0 had?

The consequences can be seen at different levels: in large ecosystems, at the organisational level and even at the individual level.

Individuals: it affects everyone differently. For employees, it can mean a change in the work they will do, while for customers, it would mean more customisation of products and services to better meet their needs.

Ecosystems: it can affect suppliers, investors, end-consumers and other third parties. It also impacts the way businesses operate and the production of goods, by interconnecting all points in a network and increasing efficiency.

Organisations: thanks to the innovations offered by Industry 4.0, it is possible to adjust to and learn from data in real time. This makes companies more proactive, responsive and predictive. Organisations reduce risks within their operations.

What challenges does Industry 4.0 face in the following areas?

Industrial automation: this is a leap into the world of digital manufacturing, improving the competitiveness of production plants. It is based on control, supervision or data transmission systems. The biggest bet for the future: software that will carry out tasks in real time.

Collaborative robotics: considers robots as useful tools to complement manual work, designed to carry out tasks following certain requirements and based on safety measures. The challenge of Industry 4.0 is their full incorporation.

3D printing: it must go hand in hand with robotisation. It will be a decisive factor in the evolution of mass production, being able to convert information into a product. We would highlight as advantages the savings in the testing of tools and tooling, as well as the reduction of post-processing and excess material.

Worker experience: digitalisation is causing an unstoppable evolution of the working environment, and adapting to Industry 4.0 will have to go hand in hand with concepts such as flexibility, innovation and knowledge. The digital revolution will bring with it the emergence of workers who will progressively replace manual work with ideas and creativity, as well as the handling of industrial software.

Sustainability: The trend towards sustainability in companies will be seen as an obligation. This involves prior awareness and imposes changes in machinery and strategies, which entail an economic cost that the company must assume in an environmentally responsible manner.

What do you think the digital factories of the future will look like?

I think of the industry of the near future and a number of ideas come to mind: monitoring, control, development, progress, continuous and real-time improvements, safety.

Everything is going to be interconnected and evolving in order to be better every day. Greater profitability, achieving the best end result. Fully automated industries, intelligent warehouses.

It is also worth noting that, with all this progress that is going to have such an impact, we need to be environmentally conscious. And I think, and above all I hope, that the factories of the future will be more and more sustainable, that every day that goes by we take this point into account even further on.

Industry 3.0 was the development of the IT world, how will Industry 4.0 impact the OT world?

They go hand in hand. Operational technology is part of Industry 4.0, in charge of controlling, monitoring and communicating the points/equipment of industrial networks.

What is the digital twin? And what is it for?

It is a virtual representation of a product or production process, so that engineers can examine its design, test potential changes and detect errors before bringing it to real life. Thus, to understand and predict the performance characteristics of its physical equivalent. To simulate, predict and optimise both the product and the production system before investing in prototypes and physical assets.

In short, the digital twin is trial and error with real values and results, but on our screens, prior to the physical product.

What level of assurance does cybersecurity offer?

Cybersecurity provides protection and risk prevention to keep data and networks safe. It is enterprise protection against malware, ransomware, phishing and social engineering; and prevention of unauthorised users. It also improves recovery time after a cyber attack.

Do you think automation will eliminate the human factor and what are its benefits?

I think it is above all an opportunity to move forward and improve. To give a clear example, the evolution of productivity in relation to hours worked per person has multiplied by 22%, and the value of what we work for has increased a lot.

Automation aims to prevent and reduce occupational risk, especially for operators on the front line of industrial machinery. Automation should do the difficult jobs, the risky jobs. But I don’t think it will do this without workers or operators who are the great supervisors of the processes that are carried out.

Moreover, curiosity and emotional feelings are not factors that robots can adopt and develop. In order to continue evolving, creating, discovering, etc., the human sector is essential. In this way, we can continue to make continuous progress in order to improve productivity and have a better future life.

IT/OT convergence is one of the major challenges facing Industry 4.0, how is it being addressed?

IT (information technology) is responsible for storing, retrieving, transmitting and manipulating data.

OT (operational technology) is responsible for monitoring and automating discrete tasks and continuous processes.

IT/OT convergence is the merging of systems that manage and control the physical with those that manage and control the digital. It is the real end-to-end digitisation of an industrial enterprise.

A crucial challenge of Industry 4.0 is to ensure the standardised and secure exchange of data and information between devices, machines, systems and services at all times.

Irene, what attracted you to study and dedicate yourself to this sector? What advice would you give to young people who are deciding to go into this field?

To always be learning new things, as we know that technology is constantly advancing and discovering new things.

My main advice is that each person should choose what they think will make them happy and feel at ease in their work; it will be their day-to-day life for a large part of their future. If they are curious, like to learn, investigate, provide solutions, this could be their chosen branch. But I encourage all those, young and not so young, who are passionate about these subjects, to apply themselves and open doors in the world of technological progress, because we still have a lot to learn, investigate and discover.

Irene, thank you very much for your time and your statements!