Revolutions, it’s said, share a common characteristic. Seemingly impossible at the beginning, they appear inevitable after the event.
So too with Industry 4.0, dubbed ‘the fourth industrial revolution’.
To a manufacturer viewing the world through the lens of a decade or so back, the transformation heralded by Industry 4.0 appears fantastical. Almost at a stroke, the logic underpinning many traditional business models, manufacturing paradigms and management methodologies has become obsolete.
But that logic stemmed from an era of uncertainty. What will customers order—and when? When will inventories need replenishing—and by how much? Does a particular piece of equipment require maintenance—and if so, why, and what? Exactly how much inventory do we have, and where? And where, precisely, do our yield losses, scrap and material wastage occur?
But with Industry 4.0, that era of uncertainty has come to an abrupt end. In place of forecasts and assumptions comes a highly granular level of actual knowledge, and an unprecedented level of insight.
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More than that, of course, comes the ability to actually act upon that knowledge and insight. Hence, of course, the reference to revolutions’ inevitability.
When you have answers, why go back to ignorance?
Yet for all its promise, Industry 4.0 is itself something of an unknown. In part, that’s to be expected. Industry 4.0 is, after all, a relatively new term, first coined in 2011. Moreover, it’s also one that represents a fusion of a set of relatively new technologies, themselves at times poorly understood.
Big Data and advanced analytics, the Internet of Things, digital modelling, additive manufacturing, computer-integrated manufacturing—Industry 4.0 not only embraces each of these (and more), but combines them together in order to make a whole that is vastly greater than the sum of its parts.
So what might such a fusion deliver? Tantalisingly glimpses of what Industry 4.0 can be capable of offering can be readily seen at those companies that are taking two, three or more Industry 4.0 technologies and then applying them to transform their businesses.
Industry 4.0, in short, is here, and is real.
But how well aware are manufacturers of the opportunity that is offered by Industry 4.0? What benefits do they see in Industry 4.0? And how prepared are they to invest in Industry 4.0 capabilities designed to deliver those benefits?
A recent survey, carried out by The Manufacturer, and sponsored by Oracle, sought to determine the answers to such questions.
The Manufacturer Industry 4.0 UK Readiness Report presents and analyses these findings, and offers a reply to the oft-encountered conundrum, what to make of it all.