Industry 5.0 and circular economy

Industry 5.0 and circular economy

We are living through the era of automation and enhanced communication in manufacturing, known as Industry 4.0. By becoming more automated, companies enjoy the benefits of higher productivity, efficiency, and profitability. With the ever-increasing importance of technology, Industry 4.0 appears to ignore the human and environmental costs that result from a narrow focus on automation and productivity. To address these shortcomings, Industry 5.0 has arrived to complement and augment Industry 4.0.

In this article, you will gain a better understanding of what Industry 5.0 means and how it complements Industry 4.0 in areas of sustainability and human factors.

Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0

Before going any further, it is useful to review previous industrial revolutions and their relevance to the current era of manufacturing.

  • The invention of the steam engine by the Scottish mechanic James Watt in the 1760s marked the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution or Industry 1.0. By the mid-19th century, the steam engine had expanded from England to most of Europe and North America. Its use allowed businesses to overcome the limitations of using human and animal power and also meant that being near water to access power was less important.
  • Almost a century after the First Industrial Revolution began, the world went through another major change in the way goods were produced, Industry 2.0. This time, the adoption and optimization of electricity, oil, and gas as new sources of energy were the major disruptors. Following this, particulate pollution from fuels like coal and wood decreased, improving the quality of life for people inside and around factories. Remarkable advances were achieved, including the creation of the internal combustion engine, the development of steel, chemical synthesis, and the wide use of the telegraph and telephone, which led to the inventions of the airplane and the automobile. During this time, some of the first legislation around health and safety in the workplace was created as public concerns around factory working conditions grew rapidly. In addition, the creation of the 40-hour week meant that people, workers, in particular, could pursue education and recreation.
  • In the second half of the 20th century, the rise of telecommunications, electronics, and, more importantly, computers, brought about the Third Industrial Revolution or Industry 3.0. The paths to space exploration and biotechnology were paved by these new technologies. An era of high-level automation became possible with the invention of programmable logic controllers and robots. In the United States, the passing of the 1790 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act started occupational health and safety.

In 2011, the high-tech strategy of the German government marked the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. With this, the Smart Factory was born as the integration of machines, people, and Big Data into a digitally connected production ecosystem. This leads to an increasing number of companies using intelligent networks to optimize and automate entire production lines. This process is currently taking place under the nine pillars of design and production in Industry 4.0:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Augmented reality
  • Big data and analytics
  • Cloud technology
  • Simulations
  • Cybersecurity
  • Horizontal and vertical system integration
  • Internet of things

These Industry 4.0 design pillars are centred around increasing productivity by improving, connecting, and automating machines, both virtual and real. Unfortunately, Industry 4.0 presents the flaw of missing human, environmental, or resiliency elements. This, however, is an opportunity for the next industrial revolution.

Industry 5.0 has arrived to complement, support, and augment all the technological advancements that Industry 4.0 continues to bring to companies. The need for Industry 5.0 comes from the observation that Industry 4.0 seems to focus more on increasing efficiency and production through machine learning, connectivity, and digitalization, and less on social wellness, sustainability, and resiliency. From these ideas, and as described by the European Commission, Industry 5.0 focuses on stakeholder values and reinforces the considerable contributions of industry to society. By placing the worker's well-being at the centre of the production process and respecting the planetary boundaries, Industry 5.0 aims to provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth. It is based on three interconnected pillars:

  • A human-centric industry puts core human needs and interests at the centre of the production process. For instance, instead of asking what workers can do with new technology, Industry 5.0 asks what the technology can do for workers. This minor change in perspective will allow technology to adapt the production process to the needs of the worker, instead of asking the workers to adapt their skills to new technology.
  • A sustainable industry respects the planetary boundaries by developing circular economy processes. Other sustainability shifts include reducing energy consumption, greenhouse emissions, and waste, as well as avoiding the depletion and degradation of natural resources.
  • Industrial production in a resilient industry has a high degree of robustness. It is well-armed against disruptions and able to support critical infrastructure in times of crisis. Clear examples of this were seen during the Covid-19 pandemic when the fragility of some supply chains and industry sectors were highlighted.

The three pillars of Industry 5.0 present a great opportunity for organizations at all levels of adoption of Industry 4.0 to adapt and complement their current practices to be more human-centric, sustainable, and resilient going forward.

Industry 5.0 and Circular Economy

Industry 5.0 recognizes the power of industry to achieve societal goals that, beyond jobs and growth, turn it into a resilient provider of prosperity. Under Industry 5.0, production must respect the boundaries of our planet and place the well-being of workers at the centre of the manufacturing processes. A viable tool to achieve this, while preserving economic and technological growth, is circular economy. In Industry 5.0, circular production models are supported by advanced technologies that rethink, reuse, recycle, regenerate, and share resources efficiently, as well as treat natural resources as precious commodities.

The adoption of circular economy in Industry 5.0 comes in different ways. For instance, implementing new supply chain practices can reduce waste and increase efficiency. In practice, companies can reduce unnecessary materials, increase reuse and recycling, reduce material waste, create more efficient supply systems, improve supply management processes, and use supply-chain analytics to optimize the supply of goods. Another way Industry 5.0 support a more circular production is by using AI and additive manufacturing to increase personalization, which optimizes resource efficiency and minimizes waste. In addition, high levels of communication, research and development, and automatization present in Industry 4.0 can support circular design practices in Industry 5.0. There are multiple areas where Industry 5.0 and circular economy overlap, we now need companies to pave the way forward by implementing these principles in their industries.

The journey to a circular industry requires more than just a change in mindset. It requires a new set of tools and a better understanding of how the latest technologies can help industries change their approach to sustainability and to enhancing the impact that supply chains make. With the human-centred and sustainable development offered by Industry 5.0, the timing for circular economy practices could not be better. This is a great opportunity for all stakeholders to see these opportunities ahead of us.

Show Comments