Introducing the trends around social, digital and
sustainability that are coming together to drive Industry
4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution. An article by Mike James:ATS International
In April 2013 at Hannover Messe, a consortium
of universities, research institutions and
industrial companies in Germany presented
a report which called for investment, awareness,
ideas and further research to help realise
4.0 – a term used to describe a wide
variety of innovations in IT, manufacturing
technology and materials that will lead to the
fourth industrial revolution.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Smart
Manufacturing Leadership Coalition in the US
is supporting the development of smart manufacturing
– systems that integrate manufacturing
intelligence in real-time across an entire
Essentially, the industrialised countries have
spotted an opportunity. Each wants to be at the
forefront of the new industrial revolution – a
revolution which is expected to bring manufacturing
back to Europe and North America, and
create high value-added jobs.
Social, technology and green changes are driving
the revolution, which will lead to the individualisation
of mass production. Everything from
your car to your shoes will be made to your specifications,
but still mass produced.
This is a social change and we estimate that
people are willing to pay around 10-15% more
for a unique product. At the same time, they expect
to be able to get their hands on their purchase
almost immediately, and this is driving the
trend to make products locally.
Green is having a major impact too; we do
not want any waste, and we do not want to use
precious fuel to transport goods unnecessarily.
Again, this will lead to small-scale, localised
manufacturing. Microbreweries are already
leading the charge in this respect.
In the fourth industrial revolution, manufacturing
plants will be self-organising. Products
and machines will be able to talk to each other,
and they will have chips with detailed manufacturing
instructions embedded in them.
Then there is the concept of cyber physical systems.
Our plants, products and equipment will
first be built in simulated environments and virtual
reality will be used to check the feasibility, layout,
quality and volume that can be achieved. Not a
foundation stone will be laid of the physical factory
before the virtual factory has been perfected.
So how can manufacturers drive forward
this next industrial revolution? I will consider
this question in future articles within OnWindows,
as well as at my upcoming global workshops
hosted by the Manufacturing Operations Management Institute.
For discussion, what
steps can manufacturers take to prepare for the
fourth industrial revolution?
Mike James is the chairman and CTO
of ATS International
This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue