5 Things You Need To Know About Industry 4.0
Much is being said about a fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and what it bodes for the future of manufacturing. To put it in context, each of the preceding three centuries have seen dramatic shifts in the way technology impacts our world:
- In the 18th century the introduction of steam and water power coupled with advances in mechanical devices began transforming the underlying economies of many countries from agrarian to industrial.
- The 19th century took things further with the introduction of mass production, interchangeable parts and widespread use of electricity. Many left the farms and moved into urban areas to work in industry.
- Advancements in electronics, automation and information technology characterized the third Industrial Revolution in the 20th The demand for skilled labor increased dramatically, reducing opportunities for unskilled workers.
- Industry 4.0 is a 21st century revolution spawned by the rapid advancements in digital technology and accelerated convergence of all technologies with physical and biological sciences. Perhaps the most compelling reasons to accept that the fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us are the advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and the speed at which all of this is happening.
What, then, does all of this mean for manufacturers in general and CNC machining in particular? Here are 5 facts to consider:
- Maintaining the status quo is no longer a viable option. The pace of technological change continues to accelerate, making it essential to stay on top of new developments and act quickly rather than taking a wait-and-see attitude. You may not be able to implement all of the latest advancements, but you should apply what you can to those parts of your business that will give you the greatest competitive advantage.
- Choose flexibility. In the past a short-term solution, such as adding another dedicated machine tool to expand capacity, might make sense. However, with the current pace of change, think long-range by adding equipment that not only satisfies an immediate need, but is also flexible enough to easily adapt to future demands.
- “New” has an incredibly short lifespan. Because information is so easily available to everyone, ideas spread quickly and multiple people simultaneously develop similar solutions. Therefore, coming up with new and better ways to make parts and products, may no longer be enough to differentiate you from the competition. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continuously improve your processes, but you must consider the total value you provide your customers. Which leads us to:
- Focusing on overall customer satisfaction. Although making a good part at a competitive price was once enough for many customers, today they demand much more: faster turnarounds, just in time deliveries, exceptional quality with tighter tolerances and the ability to deal with fluctuating order quantities. They want suppliers that are easy to do business with – meaning those will do all of the forgoing with a smile. In an era in which everyone has access to the same technology and information, good enough is never good enough.
- Broaden your perspective. If you have too narrow an image of your company, you may miss the opportunities that advancing technology and convergence provide. For example, if you define the business as simply a metal-cutting CNC job shop, rather than a provider of manufacturing services, you may be less open to such new possibilities as employing additive (3D) as well as subtractive parts making.
While coming to grips with the challenges of Industry 4.0 may seem daunting, there is also tremendous opportunity for those who embrace this latest industrial revolution.