Virtualization and automation are being taken to entirely new levels, creating the basis for major transformation across all industries and our wider society. High-level abstraction, enabled by digitalization, allows us to connect a wide variety of virtual items to create increasingly connected and efficient processes.
In an industrial context, this phenomenon is often called Industry 4.01 but this term falls short when describing the true impact of virtualization and automation, which directly or indirectly affects all societal processes.
Factory automation is considered to be the largest part of the global automation market in 2020 and robots are key to achieving this. According to Oxford Economics (2019)2, 20 million robots are expected to be installed by 2030, up from 2.25 million today, replacing many jobs, but also stimulating new avenues of employment in local, integrated manufacturing.
While previous steps within virtualization and automation have impacted only parts of the life cycle, the current step-change impacts the entire life cycle from concept to production and even in re-use. This is mainly achieved through the provision, storage, inter-connection, analysis and usage of vast amounts of information.
Towards 2030, this trend is expected to transform manufacturing3, where we will move towards both simplexity (making complex systems more transparent and intuitive) and safe-exity (the introduction of safe, complex systems, see also Safety 4.04). Both terms imply the taming of the growing complexity of modern technological systems.
Virtual presence and tele-presence will change many work routines before 2030 – not least the inspections, audits and assessments carried out by companies like DNV GL. It will be possible to perform such activities both remotely and with greater ‘view’ and ‘depth’, due to advanced camera systems and sensors combined with AI to aid decision-making. In a wider industry context, meetings, conferencing and training will have moved firmly into the virtual reality space by 2030, aided by a range of wearable technology, and spurred on by the need to cut travel-related expenses and emissions.
Developments within Industry 4.0 – including advanced sensor technology and machine learning algorithms, and strengthened inclusion of feedback loops – will see the remote and autonomous operation of assets intensify. Automation, autonomy and remote operation will coevolve, with the related technical disciplines challenging and fertilizing each other.
Towards 2030, virtualization will connect all elements and dimensions of the system life cycle, aided by digital twins. These will function as a collection of all available system data and the models used for decision support throughout the life cycle and made available to dedicated stakeholders. One example is the ‘Open Simulation Platform‘ joint industry project facilitated by DNV GL5.
- Kagermann, H., W. Wahlster and J. Helbig, eds. (2013) Recommendations for implementing the strategic initiative Industrie 4.0: Final report of the Industrie 4.0 Working Group
- Oxford Economics (2019) What automation really means for jobs and productivity. Report
- ManuFUTURE High-Level Group (2017) ManuFUTURE Vision 2030: Competitive, Sustainable and Resilient European Manufacturing.
- See “Safety 4.0”. Demonstrating safety of novel subsea technologies
- DNV GL (2018) Open Simulation Platform. Research Review 2018