On the LinkedIn Australian Manufacturing Forum there was a post of Tim McLean pointing to the following post on Industry 4.0:
While I agree with most observations made, I do not come to the same conclusion. Industry 4.0 is not only IoT and additive manufacturing. There are so many other things that will change the manufacturing world. And it’s not only a hype, there is a big push in Europe, particularly in Germany and other countries are following suit. This will change the manufacturing landscape.
I agree that this change will not happen tomorrow, you should not stop doing what you are doing well now, and you should not throw out all your old machines and buy everything new, bigger and better just so you don’t miss the rush. A German study pointed out that it will take another ten years until Industry 4.0 has penetrated all industries. No, I’m not that optimistic either, that will take much longer.
But what I do advocate for is for you to develop a vision. And to figure out how you could get there. How you could make a start now. If you have a vision then with every investment decision you have to make, you will know much better what to do, because you know what best fits the big picture.
To figure out where this could go, first have a look at all the emerging technologies in your field. Then look at the developments in ICT. Could you automate order processing? Part of it? Make a start somewhere? Could you automate quoting? Or ordering of external components? Could you customise? Are part of a supply chain where still a lot could be automated?
Automating production, in particular of customised products, can only happen if you have the data needed somewhere on a computer!
It was pointed out in that report as well, that complexity will increase and I agree with that. However, have to make sure that we handle that complexity in the software, wherever this is possible. And we have to make sure it does not get more complex than what the software developers can handle efficiently.
So what does all that mean? Industry 4.0 could be a great opportunity, if you go about it the right way. If you know where you want to go, and if you direct your investments in that direction, then you could stay ahead of your competition. Just start by developing a vision! About 80% of your competitors don’t even have that, according to a survey I came across recently!