What is Industry 4.0?

What is Industry 4.0? Author: Zaid Gulraiz Published: 12 April 2018

Industry 4.0, fourth industrial revolution, industrial internet, smart manufacturing, connected enterprise, factories of the future: these are all names of a vision enabled by technologies such as additive manufacturing (AM), blockchain, cloud, internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Broadly speaking this can be viewed as the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry, although Industry 4.0 has applications and interest from many verticals.

An industrial revolution?

Isn’t that something that happened during the Victorian times with the transition from skilled artisans making things by hand to relatively unskilled workers using machines powered by a steam engine? That was the first – initially only within the textile industry but eventually its effects were felt in almost every aspect of life.

So the first came with steam power and mechanization; the second with electricity, mass production and the assembly line and the third with computers and automation.

This brings us to Industry 4.0 which is the current trend in automation and data exchange which connects and builds on the last three almost like a marriage of the digital world with physical action to drive smart factories and enable advanced manufacturing.

I think the best way of looking at this is through the underlying technologies that have led to this shift.

The technologies that are unlocking this next industrial revolution include:

  1. Additive Manufacturing (sometimes referred to as 3D printing)
  2. Internet of Things/IoT/Industrial Internet
  3. Advanced Robotics & Automation
  4. Blockchain
  5. Cloud Computing
  6. Cyber Physical Systems
  7. Artificial Intelligence & Cognitive Computing
  8. VR, Augmented Reality & Wearable tech

What next?

We’re seeing the move from volume, mass-produced goods to personalized, on-demand products for an exigent, digitally savvy customer base. Key benefits of industry 4.0 adoption are increased productivity, agility, customer centricity and the development of new revenue streams and operating models.

Industry 4.0 saw some early signs of maturity in 2017, with analytics and big data being at the fore of early adoption. But the uptake has been isolated and occasionally ad hoc – therefore not actualizing the gargantuan leap in productivity, flexibility and quality it offers. A key reason seems to be executives inhibited by the capital required to transition.

We understand that Industry 4.0 ranks high in the minds of senior management although there is still work to be done on defining a strategy, conducting pilot studies and convincing stakeholders on the need for change.

How can we help?

Berwick Partners is a division of Odgers Berndtson, the UK's leading executive search firm.

Across our manufacturing, digital and technology practices we are seeing an increasing pace of change. Our view is that Industry 4.0 is approaching maturity with the potential to realise significant productivity, flexibility and quality gains for those who adopt the right strategies.

We know that any successful transformation will be underpinned by leadership talent and with the challenges presented by today’s global economy, this is unquestionably the age of the specialist head-hunter. To be competitive, our clients need the insight and market knowledge provided by true experts.

Zaid Gulraiz is a specialist researcher in the Manufacturing and Engineering practice.

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