Man studies technology on tablet in manufacturing setting

The fourth wave of the industrial revolution is now upon us! Industry 4.0 refers to the combination of several major technology innovations, all maturing at the same time, that will significantly shift the landscape of the manufacturing industry. These technologies – advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, sophisticated sensors, cloud computing and big data analytics – all exist in manufacturing today in some form, but as they integrate with one another, the physical and virtual worlds will interlink and transform how we do business. Industry 4.0 is still in its early stages, but it’s already changing the manufacturing sector in terms of better transparency and agility, responsiveness to customer needs and cost savings.

The key objective of Industry 4.0 is to develop manufacturing to be faster, more efficient, and customer-centric while pushing beyond automation and optimization to discover new business opportunities and models.

Technological advancement will drive manufacturing capabilities to new heights

We can expect to see major changes in the manufacturing industry in coming years. Today, for instance, data capture is at an all-time high thanks to advanced scanning and machine-to-machine technology. Industry 4.0 will introduce a new level of automated data exchange technologies where information is collected from machines, sensors, computers and humans, and then analyzed and shared in the cloud, leading to new processes, products and services.

Manufacturers need to adopt these leading-edge technologies in order to maintain relevancy and remain competitive. With the new wave of digitalization and integration in the manufacturing industry, pioneers are beginning to capitalize on these innovations. Major manufacturers are already transforming their strategies to align with the new trend of automation by:

  • Creating a sustainable IIoT strategy supported by cloud business technologies
  • Using connectivity to drive productivity and process improvements
  • Transforming the shop floor with sensor data, automation technologies, M2M integration and mobility
  • Enhancing complete supply chain visibility
For many manufacturers, the leap to Industry 4.0 can seem daunting, but with the rapid pace of change now underway in manufacturing, companies that wait and see how Industry 4.0 evolves before investing will fall behind.

Industry pulse

Massive investments are being made by leading manufacturing companies to gain a first-mover advantage into the world of Industry 4.0. The investments in Smart Factories, where information technology and operations technology are combined to create new value, have already paid large returns to those who were willing to make the jump. General Electric’s $73-million Smart Factory in Greenville, S.C., for instance, expects to save the company over $100 million by 2019 in reduced design expenses, sourcing and manufacturing costs.

More often, companies are utilizing technologies such as RFID, cloud ERP, digital-to-physical transfer and prepackaged analytics solutions to position themselves as strong competitors as the new waves of IIoT technologies are introduced. As IIoT technology is improved upon and updated, these first movers have an exponential advantage in adding new technologies quickly.

Building up a technological foundation is important, but the real value lies in how these technologies are integrated with one another. Well-integrated technologies provide the building blocks for customization and better responsiveness to customers – a driving principle for all companies.

Benefits to manufacturers

Advanced manufacturing technologies are scalable and affordable for businesses of all sizes. Mid-size manufacturers can utilize this technology now, and then add new capabilities as the company grows.

By embracing available technologies early on, mid-size companies will gain the flexible, technological base required to thrive in the coming manufacturing marketplace. Companies will see huge cost savings as technologies connect. As systems are integrated, data capture and other functions will become optimized and automated. An entity with optimized and automated business processes will be responsive to customer demands and have the resources to cost effectively fill those needs.

In the future, we'll be living in a world that's increasingly interconnected by complex and heterogeneous systems. By 2020, the amount of data stored worldwide will have grown to 44 zettabytes. Around 50 billion devices will be linked online.
IDC, The Digital Universe of Opportunities

Understanding where your organization is in the IIoT maturity model is a key first step in addressing the challenges and changes happening in the manufacturing industry.

  • Identify value driven from Industry 4.0
  • Develop Industry 4.0 strategy from the top down
  • Initiate company-wide culture change to embrace Industry 4.0 advancements
  • Conduct small-scale pilot projects
  • Develop data analytics abilities
  • Determine what capabilities are within the scope of the entity
  • Execute larger scale of digitalization
  • Interact with customers and suppliers to monitor available technologies within the industry.
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