Industry 4.0 – ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ – has its philosophical foundations in the web-based connectivity and communication of and between literally everything. It is a future where myriad devices and ‘things’ (products, energy sources, robots and so on) are interconnected, with AI-driven, cloud-connected capabilities which allow them to communicate, make smart decisions and unleash greater efficiency, value and revenue.
Industry 4.0 combines conventional manufacturing processes with enhanced technologies to address (and solve) inefficiencies in the manual and mechanical paradigm. For example, the application of 3-D printing to component manufacturing has meant massive savings in terms of tailoring both the specific item and the flexibility of production run volumes needed to fit with fluctuating demand. Integration with ERP and master data management systems means that order processing, stock level analysis and custom-produce-to-order can now be performed much faster. The manufacturing landscape is being reshaped to enhance the collaborative dimension of the relationships between producers, suppliers and customers. The challenge for industrial manufacturers is how to deploy these transformative digital strategies.