I hear that there is a revolution coming and I believe it!

Or perhaps it’s evolution?

It’s called Industry 4.0.

It was after reading a blog on 4.0 by Harley Lovegrove recently, that I thought I would look into this topic a little further

The name was first coined by industry advisors to the German Government in 2013. The advisors, made up of industry experts and scientists, provide advice to the Government on developing its technical strategy.

And why 4.0?

In 1784 the first mechanical loom was introduced and industrialised the process of weaving. Before then, this was completed by hand. The first mechanical looms were powered by water or steam, and this was the start of the first industrial revolution.

The second revolution came in around 1870 with the division of labour and mass production. Energy produced by water and steam was replaced by electricity.

The third in 1969, with the introduction of IT and in particular the first programmable controller. Production became automated. Robots were later seen on our production lines. The robots and IT systems were for the most part, working independently.

Now the fourth. One IT system that provides communication across the whole of production. Each component is tagged with a sensor that enables it to communicate with other components and the production tools through wireless network connectivity. Each component making up an ‘internet of things’.

This communication enables the manufacturer to optimise assembly. Each part reaching its place in the production line exactly when it is needed.

There is increasing demand from customers to be able to customise his or her products and end up with something that is individual. With industry 4.0 it is possible for the customer to make changes during the production process.

Manufacturers are able to control the stock that they hold for manufacturing to minimal levels and to precisely order the materials they need, at that time. They can also make use of technologies such as 3D printing to produce bespoke parts or tools in real time.

As an example, in the automotive industry, we were used to seeing hundreds of cars lined up in storage waiting for customers. It is now possible, on a mass scale, to build cars to customers’ orders and personalise each vehicle whilst it is on the production line. This is something, economically and technically unimaginable previously in mass production.

Through new technology, the customer can directly interact with the production line, not the people, but the IT system that manages it. You could change the colour, the specifications and even watch your own car going through the production line.

When this is combined with Big Data, within logistics for example, the manufacturer can look at information in real time globally and find potential bottlenecks before they appear and also allocate resources to areas that are most in need.

In 2013, Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering stated that this new technological revolution could lead to a 30 per cent increase in industrial productivity.

I believe that this is an exciting time for the consumer and the manufacturing industry.

I am looking forward to being part of the revolution. Or is it evolution?

Until next time.