The manufacturing industry has come a long way since the Industrial Revolution mechanized the way products were made nearly three centuries ago. The industry has seen a flood of change since then, from the introduction of electricity to automation. In the last decade, however, a new revolution has begun to take root, one that promises a myriad of benefits for manufacturers and businesses alike: enhanced productivity, better efficiency, cost-savings, safety and security and more. Manufacturing worldwide stands to improve their production and products by embracing Industry 4.0.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, refers to the dynamic use of technology and cyber-smart systems to create, expand and improve advanced manufacturing solutions. Also called digital manufacturing or smart industry, it is a phenomenon “in which people, devices, objects, and systems combine to form dynamic, self-organizing networks of production,” according to Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), which coined the term “Industrie 4.0” in 2011.

Industry 4.0’s applications differ depending on the solutions needed to support a manufacturer’s KPIs. Examples include 3D printing, augmented reality, autonomous robots, big data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IOT), simulation and system integration.

Why is it important?

Three out of four manufacturers in Missouri have fewer than 25 employees. Today’s technologies can help maximize the productivity of employees, keep everyone safe, secure a company’s assets and resources, and provide real-time and predictive feedback and performance data that can prevent downtime and loss of revenue. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) surveyed nearly 100 entrepreneur clients who have begun to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies and processes. Based on feedback from the survey, the BDC found six significant benefits that also apply to the manufacturing sphere today. They include:

  1. Increased productivity — Technology is a game changer when it comes to increasing productivity. The right solution can help businesses predict and prevent downtime, optimize effective maintenance, increase employee efficiencies and improve quality control with the use of control sensors. It’s estimated an hour of downtime can cost a manufacturer approximately $100,000. Digital manufacturing can minimize occurrences when emergency repairs are needed.
  2. Lower operating costs — The best way to reduce waste is through real-time production monitoring and quality control. Industry 4.0 solutions can contribute to lower costs and less waste. Examples include: Using predictive maintenance to prevent costly repairs and unplanned downtime; employing automation to save on labor costs; and using 3D printing for fast prototype development.
  3. Improved product quality — Industry 4.0 solutions often provide a treasure trove of data that can be used to improve manufacturing performance at all levels, including the quality of a product. Quality control is crucial to a business’s success because it ensures a manufacturer’s product is well made and meets customer satisfaction. In the long run, this can reduce or eliminate costly customer returns.
  4. More innovation — The ability to innovate and innovate quickly often contributes to a manufacturer’s bottom line. Smart technology and new capabilities continue to evolve, giving manufacturers the opportunity to evolve along with them, finding new ways to do business better, faster and more cost-effectively. Industry 4.0 is only the beginning.
  5. Competitive advantage — In a competitive field, the manufacturer who works smarter, not harder, often sees an advantage over competitors who have yet to adopt methods that can improve their KPIs. In BDC’s survey, digital adopters said they were almost twice as likely as non-adopters to predict annual revenue growth of 10% or more over the next three years.
  6. Business transformation — What did your manufacturing business look like 10 years ago? 20 years ago? You may have already realized some of the benefits of Industry 4.0 solutions without even knowing it. With more knowledge and support for your own digital manufacturing, you can transform your business in ways that can have big payoffs now and in the future.

Not sure where to begin? ATB offers industry-leading assistance for manufacturers in the St. Louis area. Our team of IT experts can help you define your needs, make strategic decisions and implement Industry 4.0 solutions that can help you transform your business. Contact ATB Technologies for a free consultation to review your needs for technology and IT support.

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