For many years, businesses around the world have been alert to the various benefits associated with Industry 4.0. This new way of working is focused on making use of intelligent machinery, software and robotics equipment and is designed to ensure that machines can do jobs that are either too difficult, too dangerous or too monotonous for humans.

However, in the wake of this unprecedented pandemic, it has become clear that Industry 4.0 serves another purpose; it is allowing companies to operate remotely or is playing a key role in ensuring that social distancing measures can be implemented effectively.

More focus on digital

Unsurprisingly, this ongoing period of lockdown has encouraged many businesses to think about how they can go digital. With people confined to their homes, and with office doors firmly locked, nearly all companies have had to embrace digital solutions to ensure they can continue to operate.

This ranges from the ability to work remotely – which largely relies upon SaaS-based cloud solutions – or developing an internet presence – social media channels, online stores – not only to remain relevant but to stay operational.

This focus on digital technologies is not a new trend, but it has been massively accelerated due to the fact that there is now no alternative; companies must either go digital, or they will likely die.

A role in the fight

Industry 4.0 is also being used in the fight against COVID-19. For example, the Chinese police are using thermal sensors so that they can track people that have unusually high temperatures, while numerous smartphone applications have been developed with the aim of helping people to track the virus and to see how vulnerable they are.

Self-driving robots

Miniature self-driving robots in Milton Keynes brought around 200,000 people around the town groceries during the COVID19 lockdown – and this could be the future of shopping.

This initiative started in 2018, firstly with a small local shop. Taking inspiration from self-driving cars, US-based company Starship Technologies decided to make smaller self-driving machines for the purpose of delivering shopping. In 2019, the 70 machines made around 100,000 deliveries, with some people making 200 orders per year.

What are these robots like?

The robots are white and have an antenna with a flag protruding from them. They move at a maximum speed of 4 miles per hour – about walking pace – so there isn’t any danger of them going too quickly.

They are also fixed with GPS tracking, ultrasound, and sonic sensors that help them to get to their destination safely. They can forge their own path around obstacles and even cross the road unaided, programmed with a clear map of where they need to go.

What are the benefits of these automated robots?

There are lots of benefits to these robots, other than helping people out in lockdown. They save people time and cut the environmental costs of either driving a delivery van or a car to the shop. The cuts in traffic congestion by using these robots could be huge.

The statistics for 2020 are likely to be much higher due to lockdown, and the fact that the robots delivered to some NHS staff for free during the lockdown shows how essential they can be.

Automated delivery robots are already used in various other countries across Europe, Asia, and North America. Currently, Milton Keynes is the only British destination where they are used – but this will probably all change soon.

Success is borne from crisis

It is, of course, a slightly contentious issue to think about the coronavirus in terms of benefits and positives, but it is absolutely certain that many businesses will be boosted because of the decisions they have been forced to make during this pandemic.

2020 will, of course, be remembered long into the future for numerous negatives, but hopefully one positive will be that businesses have moved away from traditional methods, and instead have found that both they and their consumers are able to benefit greatly from Industry 4.0 technologies.

The role of Industry 4.0 has been clear for a long time, but only now is it being seen not only as a nice-to-have but as an essential.

Image by NASA on Unsplash