The fourth industrial revolution is now starting. It’s gaining momentum and will affect all of our manufacturing plants.

The first Industrial Revolution came 240 years  years ago with the use of the improved steam engine and automated textile manufacturing in England. The next revolution was electrification and assembly line creation across the USA starting in 1890 and building to the early 1900s, which was a giant leap forward for many industries. The third revolution started in the 1970s with computerization of office functions, then computer-controlled machines. The use of the Internet for commerce was a continuation of this third revolution.

The fourth revolution is the networking and intelligence being built into our machines and factories. As with all industrial revolutions, this change will start slowly but gain use quickly. It will change the way we all do business and produce goods.

It will change our industry. I recommend you read Klaus Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution to gain more insight.

Thanks to sensors, fast computing speeds, artificial intelligence and networking, machines can be monitored and controlled as a group to limit downtime and gain flow. Production machinery will be able to self-analyze and communicate concerns. An early example of this is GM’s Onstar technology for cars, as well as the apps that many of us use on our phones now. My car sends me an alert if anything goes wrong, sends me a notice of needed maintenance and supplies a monthly report. Imagine when all our production equipment can do the same or self-repair.

Industry 3.0 concentrated on automation of single machines and processes, but Industry 4.0 will digitize the entire process. Analyzing and communicating great amounts of data will be the cornerstone of this revolution. The entire 4.0 ecosystem includes supply chain automated communication, augmented reality glasses, self-guided vehicles, 3-D printers and wearable devices.

According to Tom Kelly, executive director of Automation Alley, Industry 4.0 is a massive change, bigger than digital has been in the last 30 years.

“And, it doesn’t just have the potential to transform the manufacturing landscape—it already is,” he says.

Automation Alley, a technology business association that serves manufacturers in the Detroit area, is launching an initiative to help small- and medium-sized companies adopt digital manufacturing technologies.

“Industry 4.0 is just the term we’re using to describe the inevitable future—and at some companies the current reality—of manufacturing,” says Kelly. “It’s a step change in how the manufacturing world works, in the same way that Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line was a step change in the way the world worked at the time. There’s no going back from here. Industry 4.0 is the umbrella term for a number of technologies that are already transforming manufacturing. These technologies marry the physical world with the digital world, resulting in more seamless interaction between the two. With the help of sensor technology, manufacturers can track their products throughout their entire life cycle. In some cases, they can upgrade products even after the customer has received them. It’s going to completely change the way we do business in every industry across the world.”

There is no doubt that this revolution is upon us.

Keep Innovating!


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