The Future of Manufacturing


One of our team recently attended the world’s largest industrial trade show Hannover Messe where the theme was Industry 4.0. So what is industry 4.0?

A bunch of thought leaders have looked at the evolutionary stages of industry and characterised 3 major phases up until now. The first two phases are what we commonly think of as the industrial revolution where first mechanisation then division of labour began to be used in manufacturing. In the third phase electronics allowed higher productivity through what we commonly think of as automation. The 4th phase is based on the changes that will occur in manufacturing when IT and connectivity reach right down to the factory floor.

The concept suggests that large productivity gains will be made when the Internet of Things (IoT) meets large scale planning or ERP systems and big data. The free interchange of data from the factory floor will allow greater understandings of the manufacturing process and integration with planning systems will allow more flexible and timely production.

An example might be a car panel arriving at a paint station. From the bar code or RFID tag on the panel the integrated IT system tells the automated painting station to paint the panel say white to suit the white car that will be assembled at a subsequent station. Business leaders and planners have dreamed of a time when customers could order items that were then made to their requirements, specifically to order and with minimal work in progress. Industry 4.0 is the tools set that may make this possible.