Industry 4.0: Learning How To Prepare For The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Manufacturing companies can take some simple steps to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, says Mike James of ATS International

This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows

In the last issue of OnWindows I outlined the technologies and thinking behind the fourth industrial revolution. The question still on the table is, what steps do manufacturers need to take to prepare for Industry 4.0?

We know that manufacturing will be very different in 20 years time, but we also know that technologies, materials, IT and society are changing fast. So we will have to be prepared to be flexible, putting in place processes and technologies that are adaptable and will achieve a much faster return on investment.

To position your organisation for change, start with some basic actions:

    • Establish a team to study Industry 4.0
    • Get them to study what exactly it is and how it will impact your business
    • Encourage the team to attend events and ensure they meet regularly to brainstorm ideas
    • Control and direct current investments
    • Experiment with new technologies
    • Be willing to try out different strategies, even if that means risking losing money. The ones that succeed will be the ones prepared to try out new ideas.

When charting the progress we have made through each of the industrial revolutions, it is clear to see that as we have progressed, so has the degree of complexity in the technology we rely on. Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s we learnt how to harness water and steam power to enable mechanical production. Nearly a century later, we developed assembly lines and started using electrical energy for mass production, the first powered assembly lines were used at scale in the Cincinnati slaughterhouses during the 1870s. More recently, we have developed IT systems to further automate production. And today, we are starting to use cyber physical systems to create connected factories, devices and products.

Ultimately, barriers to implementation are around skills and security. To help overcome them, the Manufacturing Operations Management Institute is holding a series of global manufacturing executive workshops over the course of the next few months, including a session in Dalfsen in The Netherlands on 9 December 2015 & Coventry in the UK on 5 February 2016. For more information about these upcoming events and to find out more about what we will be discussing, please visit www.mom-institute.org. I hope you will be able to join us.

Mike James is the chairman and CTO of ATS International

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