Industry 4.0 in logistics: what is it and what are the advantages for the sector?

  • 05/08/2019
  • 8 minutes

Industry 4.0 has changed the industry’s way of working, modernized services, and impacted logistics. Get to know the best things the modern industrial revolution is bringing to the sector and also learn what you need to be mindful of when implementing it!

A scenario in which data is crossed, terminals operate in technological sync, information is obtained and exchanged in a simple, transparent, and accessible way, systems communicate with each other, access is intelligent. Welcome to the Industry 4.0 revolution!

Those who think logistics run away from that innovation are wrong. The new revolution has come to all industrial processes and will change the way of working — a concept which deserves to be studied.

In order to do that, we talked to Patrícia Iglesias, commercial director of Tecon Salvador and of Wilson Sons Logistics’s division, to understand this innovation better.

Getting to Industry 4.0 in logistics

The world has gone through three industrial revolutions. The first one happened between 1780 and 1830 and resulted in the invention of steam-powered machines. At the time, the textile and cotton industries were rising and the workers received by piece produced. In the transportation universe, railways also were a main attraction at that time.

The second revolution came about in the post-war period and led to the development of the metallurgical, steel, and chemical industries. Alongside that, there were also the methods of production idealized in the beginning of the 20th Century — the highlights where Fordism (1914), which prized mass production, and Taylorism (1911), which, among other movements, separated intellectual labor from manual labor.

And then, starting from the 1970s, a huge demand for technology led to the need for more qualified manpower. That was Toyotism’s golden age, which, through a complete quality policy, set the standard for horizontal work with cooperation, co-participation, and service outsourcing.

Then, during the Hannover Fair, in Germany, in 2011, the term Industry 4.0 was coined in a presentation about the union between machines and intelligent systems. A technology that made automation and better control of each step in the production chain possible.

How Industry 4.0 impacts logistics

Industry 4.0 is changing the automation level of manufacturing processes. For Patrícia Iglesias, data gathering was improved: “Previously, mass production was the main goal; now, besides serial production, the equipment and machinery operate independently, being able to collect and analyze data and direct it in the best way possible so as to cooperate with the employees and professionals involved”, explains Iglesias.

In that sense, logistics is still an important basis for the production process, because it rationalizes the supply chain dynamics, aiming for the product to be delivered at exactly the right time. All that in the adequate place and condition and, perhaps most importantly, with the right cost”, complements the commercial director.

Thus, the movement propelled by the industry led logistics to also become 4.0. “The need for transparency in the supply chain, the management of all the online and full-time processes related to the demand for manpower directed to innovation, brought to logistics’ daily routine important concepts such as Internet of Things, system integration, cloud computing, Big Data analysis, among others”, explains Iglesias.

The advantages of Industry 4.0 in logistics

Optimization of the execution of the production process could summarize the great advantages of Industry 4.0 in logistics.

For Iglesias, time and cost reduction and better resource use, including of the human capital, with management and control through dynamic online, real-time indicators, lead to what she calls a “jump in productivity”.

The main Industry 4.0 applications, such as Big Data, automation, biometrics, artificial intelligence, and a series of disruptive approaches expedited operations, increasing security and transparency. These innovations bring about new ways of working, where repetitive tasks no longer have much space. The new scenario requires an increase of work dedicated to planning and remote operations, creating new professions, improving work quality for everyone and, consequently, optimizing deliveries and organizational performance.

Points of attention in the implementation of the 4.0 system in logistics

Beyond the productive jump, Iglesias warns that “the intelligent automation of production processes must be done gradually, because it’s necessary that the stakeholders be prepared for this change”.

For her, implementing the concepts of 4.0 without considering the interaction with the clients, employees, and suppliers, and also with the environment, may lead to instability and cause ruptures that make the business’ continuity unfeasible.

“The innovation process must begin in the company’s human resources management”, advises the commercial director. Taking into consideration that the concepts of 4.0 create much more of a culture than a procedure, for her, it makes sense that all starts from the human side. “From that point on, professionals begin feeling engaged in changing the environment in which they work at. Besides, innovating always aims to optimize tasks and processes, making them more competitive”, adds Iglesias.

The main pillars of Industry 4.0

Interoperability, Virtualization, Real-Time Capability, Disruptive Thinking, and Modularity. Those terms, connected to the way of working in the new industry, are joined together and consecrated as the pillars of Industry 4.0 in logistics.

An industry that carries those concepts within it is capable of optimizing your operation and performance through an operation guided by the access to data and the crossing of information with more precision and accuracy.

Also, for Patrícia Iglesias, the main pillars of Industry 4.0 can be found in the organizational human development added to the direction from the high leadership to the incessant search for innovation. According to her, that’s what “guarantees consistent investment”.

The commercial director also mentions compliance in process integration in the supply chain as one of the main pillars to be highlighted in this innovation.

Results of the 4.0 concept in the daily routines of logistics

The good results of a refined application of the 4.0 concept prove that we’re facing the fourth industrial revolution.

The two terminals of the Wilson Sons Group operate in technological sync. “Both have digital automation and customer service systems, without losing the humanization that data management requires for its quality to be legitimate and truly intelligent”, says the commercial director. Some examples of technologies applied to the two terminals are the Client Portal, truck access via biometrics, container information reading through OCR (Optical Character Recognition), a scanner that reads data from the cargo in the truck, and the integrated management software Navis N4.

“We’re talking about automated logistics, which has come to bring quick responses, making it possible for all involved in cargo transportation to monitor the displacement of products in real time, in an accessible way, and with all the appropriate information”, points out Iglesias. Those are technologies that managed to bring more transparency and data security and fewer mistakes. Besides, they offer real-time, online responses.

According to her, since December, XVela went live — a collaborative cloud platform that allows port terminals and shipowners to use the same online system to deal with the ship’s operation and monitor cargo transportation in real time. “The changes don’t stop and reformulation goes on”, concludes Iglesias.

If you enjoy learning more about the processes that are revolutionizing logistics and creations that facilitate the life of your operators, check out also our article about the “Portal Único de Comércio Exterior”.