Industry 5.0 – a step back from the "lights-out" factory or the return of the man

18 February 2019

Written by Valerija Olsevska

The term ‘Industry 4.0’ was coined in 2011, and while the adoption rates vary among organizations, it would be wrong to say that we are only in the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. Just as we finally got more or less a clear image of what exactly is in Industry 4.0, visionaries and strategists have already started talks about Industry 5.0. Japan, for example, has even taken it further and introduced the Society 5.0 plan in 2016, expanding the digital transformation from the industry towards “super-smart society”.

The current revolution focuses on creation of the seamless and efficient value chains with IoT-enabled smart facilities and networks of data flowing throughout the systems. With a great focus on technology it has shaken the human role in the industrial framework. Whether Industry 5.0 will be a true industrial revolution, or a small revision of the fourth revolution is still a question, but it is clearly driven by the current concerns of manufacturers embracing digitalization and automation – how humans fit in the smart factory and how can we benefit from it. Our previous blog has already discussed the impact of Industry 4.0 on the quality of shop-floor workers’ job. Industry 5.0 is seen to redefine the humans’ work and bring the “human touch” into the sophisticated cyber-physical industrial system.

So how will this “human-cyber-physical” system look like? Current market trends towards a higher degree of individualization already moved us towards mass customization. But we cannot standardize all our creativity into rules and pre-defined features. Customers still need something ‘unique’ and the possibility to make something special for many companies is a key value proposition. Here the human factor comes into our systems of the future, giving rise to mass personalization – individualized car interior, shoes or a piece of furniture. To enable personalization of every product, machines will require guidance and, in some industries, real craftmanship. That brings us to a second Industry 5.0 projection – increase of collaborative robots working in sync with human workers. Collaborative robots will serve as multi-tools and overtake all monotonous and heavy tasks, leaving a room for flexibility and human-based craftmanship. With robots of course comes Artificial Intelligence, which continues to take manufacturing further. Perhaps at some point the AI system will make decisions at the speed of light, but Industry 5.0 makes a stand here: “machines serve us.” While micro or operational problems will be entrusted to AI, human problem-solving skills and unique value-adding creativity will be deployed to tackle high-level decision-making.

The greater product personalization might not be a case for some industries, but a human role in a business case of digitalization and automation is a question of today. So, perhaps your organization is already embracing the fifth revolution by redefining its workers roles and human-machine collaboration. As we have learnt, it’s not only about getting training to operate a new machine plugged into a production line. Just as a customer configuring his/her future car online, the organization can play with its business processes in a safe digital environment and see what development alternatives are there and understand the impact of new technologies beyond its production line.

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