As we look through the changes of industrial revolutions they all have one thing in common – the focus is always on changes to production processes. The First Industrial Revolution characterized by water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second was the introduction of electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution. It is characterised by the automation of technologies connected in a network interlinking all processes.
1712 – The era of Steam Engines
The steam engine was designed by Thomas Newcomen marking one of the most important and key aspect of the Industrial Revolution.
1765 – Industrial Revolution 1
1769 – Improving Efficiency
Half a century later the steam engine was significantly improved by James Watt making a more efficient steam engine. This was how combustion engines began driving the industry forward by powering the first trains, steamboats, and factories.
1870 – Industrial Revolution 2
1882 – Electricity
Commercial distribution of electricity led to a breakthrough in the supply of electricity power. To this day electric power is the most-used energy source.
1931 – Assembly Line
Henry Ford puts the first moving assembly line into operation, therefor significantly increasing production and efficiency. Henry Ford’s organisation makes a global breakthrough in production.
1945 – Robots
In 1945 development of industrial robots progressed rapidly and included the invention of the transistor in 1947. Numerical control machines were built in 1955. In 1960, the first hydraulic industrial robot was showcased and the mobile robot was created in 1968.
1969 – Industrial Revolution 3
1980’s – Computers
In 1980 it’s fair to say the pace of development really picked up and it became the era of computing.
1989 – World Wide Web
In the 1960’s and 70’s, the Internet was primarily an academic affair used mainly by universities, research institutes and, in the USA, by the military and state authorities. The birth of the World Wide Web sparked a revolution which was made available to society by the European research institute CERN.
NOW – Industrial Revolution 4
NOW! – Cyber physical Systems
The heart of Industry 4.0. Machines and tools are networked via the internet by means of fitted sensors and software.
So why the big fuss? Industrial revolutions bring change, changes in social, technological and economic areas. Just imagine, being able to get everything delivered, wherever you are. Networking supply chains becoming more efficient, with rapid growth forecast for industrial machines… all while production becomes flexible and smarter. As we move toward integrated, automated processes, we aim to achieve an error rate of 0 while providing customer-specific products and optimised processing times. The factory of the future is already in motion.
SEW-EURODRIVE Magazine, Drive world – what’s next? Factory of the future interviews. SEW-EURODRIVE MAGAZINE published 02/2014.