Industry 4.0 in the Manufacturing Sector

Industry 4.0 in the Manufacturing Sector

3D printer setup
3D printer setup. Credit: Jonathan Juursema/Wikimedia Commons

We are in the middle of another industrial revolution – our fourth revolution to be exact. As with previous industrial revolutions, products today are manufactured at a faster pace and with a higher consistency, providing a greater value to consumers. This fourth industrial revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, is powered by emerging technology breakthroughs with advances in fields like robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and nanotechnology. Manufacturers are developing complex products at a rapid pace on a massive scale.

Compared to the previous computing revolution that focused on the automation of single machines and processes, Industry 4.0 focuses on the digitization and integration of all physical assets and digital ecosystems. To survive and thrive in this new revolution, manufacturers must focus on leveraging new technologies to grow.

A PwC survey of more than 2,000 participants from nine major industrial sectors in 26 countries found that companies expect to generate 3.6% p.a. from cost reductions over the next five years. Industrial companies are also expecting to increase revenues by 2.9% p.a. by digitizing products and developing new digital service offerings.

Of the manufacturers surveyed, many reported the following changes by 2020:

  • One-third says digitization will increase to 72%;
  • Reliance on manufacturing intelligence and analytics will increase by 88%; and
  • New product development and optimizing existing products will be the greatest areas of growth.

Industry 4.0 is combination of the virtual and physical. Here are three technology trends that are forming the building blocks of this new revolution:

  • Big data and cloud computing

Cloud computing allows organizations to capture and extract large amounts of data pertinent to production. The more information your company captures about supply planning, customer feedback and product quality, the greater the return will be. Interrelated computing devices can track production quotas, convert data captured by smart sensors and create predictive models based on feedback from machines communicating with other machines. In summary, IoT captures the right information to identify new opportunities for smarter business moves.

Additionally, data that’s accessible via the cloud lets management and production teams across the company access, manage and share the same information. Not only will you cut costs and make better decisions, your company will be able to create products and services based on customer needs.

  • 3D printing

As a game changer for the manufacturing industry, 3D printing is enabling the use of creating prototypes and finished goods with less materials. Objects can be manufactured with high strength into an infinite number of shapes without using actual resources or compromising quality.

  • Collaborative robots

Building a better manufacturing sector includes making robots a complement to humans, not a replacement. Collaborative robotics, or cobots, are designed to act as assistants and help complete complex and sensitive tasks that cannot be automated. Since robots are capable of learning and mimicking human traits, they can be integrated in more projects, and technicians can focus their attention on core business items and other aspects of the production chain. This new level of collaboration is beneficial to the manufacturing industry as it creates safer environments and increases productivity, while also valuing the work of employees.

The traditional manufacturing business model is changing. To remain competitive in this emerging market, broaden your practical knowledge about digital technologies and how they can be adapted into your operations. Think about the best use of talent and how to structure your organization. There are many trends bringing manufacturing solutions, so prepare for a digital transformation.


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