What exactly is Industry 4.0? It’s a question that many manufacturing businesses are asking, as the phrase starts to crop up in more and more conversations. And the answer may surprise: very genuinely, Industry 4.0 could be the best opportunity you’ve had in years to grow your manufacturing business.
How so? Because, unlike many such initiatives, Industry 4.0 isn’t solely about how manufacturing businesses can cut costs, or adopt new technology paradigms. Instead, it’s very much focused on building new markets, finding new customers, developing new products and services, and discovering new ways to improve customer service.
All of which fairly obviously translates into opportunities to grow your manufacturing business -- with new revenues, from new markets, and new products and services.
And how is this achieved, precisely? Let’s take a look.
Let’s begin with what Industry 4.0 isn’t. It isn’t a new technology -- although it is enabled by technology.
Instead, it’s more of a general approach, in the same way that -- say -- Six Sigma isn’t a technology, but a discipline that harnesses technology in order to achieve particular goals.
And certain technologies are clearly associated with Industry 4.0. The Internet of Things, for instance. Big Data. Additive manufacturing. Predictive analytics. Computer-integrated manufacturing. Business Intelligence. Robotics. Cobots. And digital modelling.
Or, as some people prefer to sum them up, smarter manufacturing.
Different business models
Either way, the point is that these various technologies can come together to deliver capabilities that you can exploit to grow your manufacturing business.
Such as? Consider servitization, for instance. Instead of selling equipment such as machine tools and palletisers, manufacturers can charge for them on a ‘per use’ basis, much like Rolls-Royce’s ‘power by the hour’ business model.
Or consider the replenishment of consumables or raw materials on a precise Just in Time basis. Or consider field service, where equipment ‘dials home’ to say that such field service maintenance is required.
In each case, the opportunity in question to grow your manufacturing business is delivered by the Internet of Things.
Far-fetched? Far from it: real live manufacturing businesses are doing these things now.
Working smarter, not harder
Likewise, you can also grow your manufacturing business by emulating those real live businesses using Industry 4.0’s smarter manufacturing technologies.
Big Data, Business Intelligence, and predictive analytics, for instance, provide new insights with which you can grow your manufacturing business.
Here, the focus is threefold: acquiring a better understanding of your customers, and their demand patterns; acquiring a better understanding of your manufacturing operations, in order to improve quality and reduce costs; and acquiring a better understanding of your supply chains, in order to better meet customer demand, at lower cost and with less inventory.
Industry 4.0’s smarter manufacturing technologies also make an impact on the factory floor. Here, the point is not that technologies such as digital modelling, additive manufacturing and computer-integrated manufacturing are new, it’s that Industry 4.0 links them together, creating a powerful fusion that helps manufacturers to rapidly accelerate time-to-market.
Likewise, while robotics (and cobotics) aren’t new, Industry 4.0 sees them move out niche applications such as automotive assembly lines, and into general-purpose, everyday manufacturing. And with sharply lower labour costs, competing with China becomes a real prospect.
What’s stopping you?
Roll it all together, and Industry 4.0 makes a compelling proposition -- and one that has been described as “the fourth Industrial Revolution”.
In short: re-imagine manufacturing, and grow your manufacturing business.
Tempted? Many manufacturing businesses are.