An In-Depth Review of Industry 5.0 and Its Impact on Society

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The fact that automation could someday take over all human jobs is an idea that has haunted mankind ever since artificial intelligence first took root. Well, those fears are finally coming true. Studies show that robots could displace 20 million jobs in the manufacturing industry within the next 10 years and this is a by-product of Industry 4.0, the current industrial revolution that has taken automation up a notch. But while industries are struggling to stay in p ace with the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution, Industry 5.0, the only possible solution to this job crisis, is already beginning. This paper primarily deals with how Industry 5.0 will help enterprises adapt to changes in market and consumer trends and how it will stand-out from its predecessor in terms of human involvement. Further, it also discusses the possible repercussions of Industry 4.0, once it goes global and the challenges and concerns of the 5th industrial revolution. Finally, it investigates the broader implications and future scope of Industry 5.0 and the impact and changes that the manufacturing industry will need to undergo.

The industrial revolution was perhaps the most transformative period for all of human civilization. It essentially laid the foundation for industrial growth around the globe. But few realise that the industrial revolution itself has evolved at multiple junctures, depending on the needs of the society and the technology available. Mechanisation by means of fossil fuels, water and steam were the building blocks of the first industrial revolution, which began in the late 1700s.The second industrial revolution allowed factories to setup mass-production and assembly lines with the advent of electricity and conveyor belts. The third phase, popularly called “The Digital and Electronics era” also saw the introduction of semiconductor-based chips to further automate production. The 4th Industrial revolution also known as Industry 4.0, was introduced by the German government as a concept called “Industrie 4.0” in 2011. It involves advancing the trend of automation through digitalization and network production with the help of cyber-physical systems, cloud computing and the Internet of Things.

While enterprises are still in the process of transitioning to a level of “Extreme automation”, a term popularised by critics, we are already at the brink of witnessing the genesis of the 5th phase or Industry 5.0. Unlike the previous phases, the fifth industrial revolution focuses on bringing back the human element by means of a collaborative environment between man and machine, where human intelligence works hand-in-hand with automation and cognitive computing, thereby bringing in the best of both worlds. Even as artificial intelligence advances, there is still no viable substitute for a human’s critical analysis and decision-making abilities and these skills will become invaluable during this transition.

Analysis of Industry 4.0 and Its Shortcomings

Industry 4.0, like any concept, has its pros and cons. Granted it ensures improved productivity and efficiency, better flexibility and agility, and increased profitability. But at what cost? Since 4th phase solely focuses on increasing productivity, jobs will soon be taken over by automated systems. Once Industry 4.0 gains stronghold, millions will lose their jobs, thereby leading to an increased wealth disparity sending shockwaves to all levels of society.

Cybercrime become an even more dangerous threat. With reduced human involvement, maintenance and repair of machines prove to be a huge challenge. Manufacturers and enterprises will need to spend a large capital just to transition. Moreover, with dehumanisation, industries will lose a sense of integrity and morality without any human oversight thereby turning them into efficiency-hungry mongrels with no regard for the environment or the planet. It is at this juncture that the idea of Industry 5.0 was born.

While the 4th revolution put automation and robotics at the centre of manufacturing and production, the 5th one will actually see a collaborative workspace between people and factory systems, essentially bringing back the much-needed human-touch to the manufacturing industrial setup, but armed with the efficiency of an automated co-worker. The technology of our age gives us the power to create a more fluid interface between machines and humans. This allows flexibility of product manufacturing at a scale we are yet to see.

In today’s industrial scenario, machines are not just used in production but are smart enough to collect data that helps optimize product quality and reduce production cost. But, using this data to take crucial decisions are well beyond the boundaries of a machine, at least for now. The main objective of Industry 5.0 will be to merge the precision and speed of industrial automation with the cognitive, critical thinking and analytic skills of human operators. Hence repetitive tasks like drilling, welding or data entry will fall under automated systems while human workers can take up more important jobs like making real-time decisions, and looking for opportunities to elevate quality and optimize production processes rather than menial jobs.

Specific Features of Industry 5.0

In order to create a common workplace for machines and humans, safety is a factor that is of utmost concern. Cobots are answer for this dilemma. A cobot or a collaborative robot is type of robot, specifically designed to work together with humans in a common environment. They are built with proximity sensors that help the machine to stop on the slightest touch, thus removing the need for safety fencing. Moreover, unlike classical robots, cobots can be programmed easily.

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Most cobots today are also capable of learning and repetition. An operator can just move the robotic arm along the required direction and the cobot “learns” to replicate it. Hence, this flexibility of reprogramming allows workers to use the same device for various tasks. Traditional robots cannot be reprogrammed easily and require an experienced engineer to input and implement any new program. Studies show that companies that used cobots saw a return on investment in less than on year as a result of reduction in work barriers. Hence less time was lost, thereby increasing productivity and reducing labour costs.

The rise of industrialisation, eventually led to the concept of mass production. Before the first industrial revolution in the late 18th century, products were unique, custom and handmade and in small quantities. But this made accessibility difficult for the middle- and lower-class members of the society. Industrialisation brought about a difference in this scenario, with the introduction of mass production. Products were created in large quantities, with little human effort, thereby reducing prices and making it affordable to every part of the society.

Mass customisation will be the birth child of the best aspects of the pre- and post-industrial revolution eras and the shift from mass-production to mass-customisation is evident from the statistics. In a study conducted by Deloitte, a multinational professional services network, the study regarding the rise of mass-personalisation, the results were staggering. 1 in 5 consumers who expressed an interest in personalised products or services were willing to pay a 20% premium. 22% of the consumers were happy to share some data in return for a more personalised customer service or product.

On an average, 36% of consumers expressed an interest in purchasing personalised products or services, while 48% were willing to wait longer for a personalised product or service. The internationally renowned consulting firm Accenture conducted a survey, in 2017 with 512 manufacturing executives from all over the globe and the results revealed that 85% of them envisioned a collaborative production line between humans and robots in their plants by 2020.The statistics collected from both the consumers and manufacturers side show a slow but steady transition to mass-customisation which cannot be facilitated by an “extreme automation” industrial scenario provided by Industry 4.0. But, with the help of human-machine collaboration, Industry 5.0 is our beacon of hope. Skilled human operators can modify a production line in a weekend, whereas robots take weeks to reprogram and realign. The human element ensures flexibility of the production line. Paradigm Electronics, a Canada based high-end loudspeaker manufacturer, noticed that by adding introducing a collaborative workspace, production efficiency was increased by almost 50% .

Mass personalisation will primarily focus on producing products in large scales, each slightly different to cater to the individual needs of customers, at costs low enough to be accessible to all. To make this next step in revolutionising the manufacturing industry, certain essential changes have to be made to the present communication and process flow followed in industries around the globe. First and foremost, the level of customisation of a product must be decided. It can be categorised into 4:

  • Products with similar functions but personalised appearances;
  • Products with personalised functions and common appearances;
  • Products in which consumers control every aspect of the product;
  • Products that have similar functions and appearances but different utilities.

Human operators need to be highly trained in both manufacturing as well as the customisation process, so that they can take necessary decisions during production to satisfy customer needs. Even Mercedes-Benz, the second largest car manufacturer in the world, is moving away from maximising automation to increasing the number of humans on the work floor because there is so much variety in mass-customisation for a machine to take on. . They haven’t reached the point where they can work with all the different options and keep pace with changes. Even in Japan, the world’s leaders in industrial robotics, Toyota has begun replacing robots with humans to counter-intuitively increase efficiency and reduce waste. Moreover, the technology and machines used need to updated, to a level of cognitive computing so as to make reconfiguration faster, easier and cheap.

With the entry of customised products into the market, consumers will be able to modify products, depending on their requirements. But this does not mean, products will be fully customisable. Only features that prove to be useful, if customised, to a large part of the society, should be allowed this option. A huge challenge mass customisation will face will be maintaining the cost of the products. There should be no additional costs other than the investment made in technological updation and advancement. Moreover, customising every product in the industry can prove tedious and unwise. This is where customers opinions matter. Hence, bringing about mass- customisation requires the manufacturing industry to have a direct communication channel with the customers and consumer. Based on the data collected from the larger public, customer needs can be analysed to satisfy the market trend. With technology taking greater leaps every day, the dawn of mass customisation is closer than we can anticipate and industries need to be ready to embrace the winds of change.

Necessary Changes to Facilitate Industry 5.0

With the onset of Industry 5.0, the number of human workers will increase in number and the traditional factory will transform into a collaborative workspace between man and machine, where the roles adopted by them will be of co-workers or companions in comparison to today’s scenario. But as discussed previously, industries have to keep up with the pace of technological advancements and update themselves about consumer and market trends. An important factor that need we need to take into account is the fluidity of communication and interaction between the operator and the cobot.A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) provides a viable solution for this problem. FNIRS or Functional near infrared spectroscopy is a BCI tool that can be used by robots to infer human actions via their thoughts by measuring brain activity. FNIRS is slowly gaining recognition in the medical and healthcare industry for wirelessly performing micro-surgeries with the help of cobots and for wirelessly controlling wheelchairs. It analyses human brain activity to control external devices. This will allow the machine working with the human to understand and infer when and what kind of assistance the operator will need during the manufacturing or assembly process in real-time. As technology evolves and transform overtime, the role of humans in the industrial setup is everchanging. New jobs are created every day, as a result of technology’s volatile nature, requiring enterprises to hire employees with the ability to update their skillset ever so often.

According to a report released by the World Economic Forum in 2016 regarding the future of jobs, an estimate showed that about 65% of children entering primary school today, will ultimately end up working in jobs that have not come into existence yet. Governments and businesses should have the ability to anticipate trends in order to train human to work in synergy with cobots. The new industrial revolution is also bound to create new roles in the corporate hierarchy and a popular concept that tech-pioneers and visionaries have put forward is that of a CRO or Chief Robotics Officer. For a long time, technology and manufacturing were 2 separate industries that flourished in their own areas. With the onset of Industry 4.0 and 5.0, they converge to become an interdependent entity and the CRO will be the leader that guides the company through the turbulent times of convergence. The CRO will deal with all human-automation collaboration while simultaneously incorporating the essentials of the manufacturing and robotics industry. The best parts of Industry 4.0 such as IOT and data collection will also be used for real-time analysis of process efficiency, process tracking, order collection and creating sales reports thereby providing solutions for process optimization and sustainable management of resources.

Conclusions

Industry 5.0 is basically taking a step back to make a huge leap forward. It does not involve an increase in technological consolidation but instead stipulates the need for a healthy equilibrium between man and machine in a factory. This step is hugely ironic, considering the fact that every step in previous industrial revolutions have seen an increase in automation and a simultaneous decrease in human involvement. This next step will help put humans back in control of the manufacturing and production industry, assisted by cobots. This allows humans to play a more vital role in the industry in jobs requiring high-skilled workers, rather than wasting the potential they have to offer through repetitive factory jobs. With the onset of the new industrial revolution and the advent of customized products, human-intellect and human beings are more valuable than ever to help industries deliver the best product to the market. The times we live in are unpredictable and the only constant is change itself. Technology is evolving at a faster pace than ever before and industries need to know the pulse of consumers and their needs to stay relevant and the ones that are successful are usually those who adapt and embrace change accordingly.

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