October 7, 2016
Industry experts have declared that we are entering what has been dubbed “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” In an era of branding and marketing, we have already heard this referred to as Industry 4.0 and Factory 4.0. For the duration of this particular article, we will be using the term Manufacturing 4.0.
What is Manufacturing 4.0? To put it succinctly, the manufacturing industry is taking advantage of the technological advances being made and successfully integrating these advancements into their day-to-day operations.
For some, the next logical question might seem to be “What does it mean for the future of the manufacturing industry?” However, the real question is “what does it mean to the present state of the manufacturing industry?” The elements of Manufacturing 4.0 have been available for quite some time.
An innovation like 3D printing, one of the key elements of this new Industrial Revolution, has been in existence since May 1980 when a patent for “Rapid Prototyping,” a forerunner of 3D printing technology was filed. Fast-forward to 2016 and a PwC survey of US manufacturers indicated that “two out of three companies are already adopting 3DP (3D Printing) in some way.” (Source: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/industrial-products/next-manufacturing/3d-printing.html)
Robert E. Moritz says companies from small shops to multinational corporations are using 3D printing for more than just prototypes, it’s being used for final products. (Source: http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dispatch-from-davos-manufacturing-40-fourth-robert-e-moritz)
In addition to the next wave in industrial advancement becoming reality, so too are a new wave of robots with increase sensing, dexterity, memory and trainability, the latter coming from work with human workers.
And while the Internet has long been used to help market the products that are the achievement of the hours and effort of the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing 4.0 leverages the use of the internet, or rather, interconnected operations to automatically deliver efficiency and quality improvements to networked sensors and assembly systems while, at the same time, offering new opportunities in monitoring and maintenance.
To jump back to our previous question, one key impact that Manufacturing 4.0 will be able to provide manufacturers with the ability to deliver customized items to their customers and clients in shorter turn-around times than ever before. To take a clothing manufacturer as an example, the advances made through this new era will substantially increase the customer’s ability to choose the proper size of clothing. Instead of having to choose from just four sizes (small, medium, large and extra-large), the customer will be able to purchase clothes suited to their specific body size.
Of course, the real question may be, how do we successfully implement Manufacturing 4.0 into day-to-day operations?
Perhaps the Manufacturing Leadership Council said it best in their September 13 blog post “Identifying a Path to Manufacturing 4.0” (Source) when they stated that it would take “a great deal of experimentation, trial and error and, yes, practice” with Manufacturing 4.0 in order for manufacturers to reap the benefits of what they termed “this next wave of industrial progress.”
Sath Rao has given us another acronym in a Manufacturing Leadership Journal article entitled “Manufacturing 4.0: The F.I.X. for the Future.” (Source) F.I.X. stands for Flexibility (agile production processes), Innovation (driving the innovation process) and X-Transformation (strategically planning for a disruptive future). As Rao says, “this F.I.X. for manufacturing requires us to look beyond the obvious.”
But what it really boils down to is If we are to take advantage of this great change, we must be able to take advantage of this great change. Manufacturing 4.0 presents a great opportunity but we must seize that opportunity.