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The Historical Landscape of Process Controls Engineering

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For most of recorded world history, hand-made products defined industrial production. They were fashioned in homes and small workshops, such as village blacksmiths, millers and bakers.  Over the last three centuries, those cottage industries have made a gradual but accelerating transition into mass-production in factories, driven by a process of mechanisation for efficiency and cost reduction. This began with the increasing use of steam and waterpower, in what has become known as “Industry 1” but took decades. “Industry 4” is the latest phase of this process for increased quality, efficiency and cost reduction in industry which is now rooted in “Smart Technology”. Modern production lines began with the extensive use of railways and telegraph networks and the advent of electricity before 1914 in “Industry 2”. “Industry 3.0 arrived before1970 and an increased use of electronics and computer technology, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), distributed control and SCADA systems, connectivity, internet access, and early advances in renewable energy.

From 2015, today’s “Industry 4.0”, or the “Digital Revolution”, has been continuing the trend although the Covid pandemic is tending to obscure the arrival in industry and importance of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “Industry 4” and the supercomputer allows production processes to engage with large-scale, machine-to-machine communication and is pairing IIoT with cyber-physical systems. Although IIoT is still in early development in 2020, it coexists with SCADA but is bringing about a wave of new business models and technologies that are changing the landscape of industrial process controls. For the future, “Industry 5.0” will create a great change of perspective; people will become the fundamental axis of the production sector. Industry 5.0 will allow further automation of processes, robotics and the evolution of technology for people to develop new skills in production processes. Humans’ work will be in intellectual production, making training necessary to be proactive in this new model of industrial society in which a generation of skilled people begin to remotely monitor and manage “dark factories”.

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