Germany’s “Industry 4.0″ – touted as the “fourth industrial revolution” by industry pundits for the past several years – has inspired manufacturers the world over to begin leveraging the Internet to create “smart factories” and retool their information systems around shared analytics and the infrastructure of the Internet of Things.
Citing steam power, electric power and computing power as the first three phases of industrial evolution, this new paradigm assigns equal power to IoT, rebuilding fabrication, distribution, and product marketing in the B2B universe on digital information technology and the growing universal network of interconnected devices.
The Boston Consulting Group, in an article on ZDNet, listed several technological underpinnings in this new industrial paradigm, all enterprise-oriented and based on integrated networks.
Big data analytics. Emphasis on across-the-board big data thinking and methodology, including product development, marketing, production, distribution and finance.
Commitment to both horizontal and vertical integration. The enterprise view must include deep integration of both internal and partner systems, to ensure universal collaboration.
Simulation. An under-utilized step in manufacturing and logistics, simulation is a centerpiece of 4.0, boosting innovation with resource-economic test time savings.
3D Printing. ‘Addictive-manufacturing methods’ are the key to customized products, an obvious strategic advantage in many industries. 3D Printing enables the economic production of small batches of specialty products that can be rapidly produced and distributed with minimal logistical difficulty.
Robotics. Long-established in manufacturing at this point, robots with access to real-time data throughout the manufacturing process can be increasingly context-sensitive, allowing more sophisticated performance and giving them a more critical real-time role in overall production logistics.
‘Augmented Reality’. Google’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens are examples of decision support systems enabled by this new paradigm. Virtual training and OTJ help systems will take huge leaps forward, reducing downtime and optimizing operational efficiency.