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What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?




A bit of history, by the end of the 18th century there was the first industrial revolution when mechanization, steam and water power were used by the agrarian society. The start of the 20th century saw the iconic Henry Ford assembly line with the introduction of mass production and the industrial society. In 1970, the use of electronic and computers to achieve further automation of manufacturing created an information society.


What is industry 4.0


The most common term for industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution where we will see cyber physical systems such as robotics and internet of things support the super smart society.

There are multiple terms for this newest revolution – digital transformation, manufacturing 4.0, smart manufacturing, digital manufacturing, smart factory, industrial internet of things, etc.

My preferred definition is that industry 4.0 is a set of technologies that enable connectivity, transparency, and faster decision making. These technologies free up time to focus on the core competencies and value add work. These technologies are shaping the future of production, taking organizations to the next level, and providing an augmented way to do continuous improvement. Industry 4.0 is the means to take lean manufacturing to become more competent and competitive in the new era.


Industry 4.0 can impact both Process and Product e.g. autonomous vehicles. Process is the area I am more interested in as there is so much opportunity to use technology to improve processes – as long as there is a clear understanding of what those processes are so they can be effectively enabled by technology. Manufacturing operations must get on this bullet train with the willingness to experiment and collaborate.


Industry 4.0 Portfolio of Technologies


Here is a summary, in future blogs I will provide more detail and references.

Advanced Robotics: Autonomous, Collaborative Robots, Integrated Sensors & Standardized interfaces.


Additive Manufacturing: 3D printing, particularly for spare parts and prototypes to reduce transport distances and inventory.


Augmented Reality: Display of supporting information through glasses for standard operational procedures, maintenance, logistics, and inspection.


Simulation: simulation of value networks and optimization based on real time data from intelligent systems.


Horizontal and Vertical Integration: cross company data integration based on data transfer standards for the automation of the value chain.


Internet of Things: network of machines and products for communication between objects.

Cloud computing: management of huge data volumes in open systems and real time communication for production systems.


Cybersecurity: operation in networks and open systems; high level of networking between intelligent machines, products, systems.


Big Data & Analytics: full evaluation of available data for real time decision making support and optimization.


Industry 4.0 initiated the digital transformation storm bringing a lot of disruption to the business environment. As a former manufacturing operations executive and current executive coach, I have spent many years working on processes, technology, and change and it is critical to understand that this revolution is not all about technology. The transformation will only happen when leaders and organizations realize that it is all centered around People and Processes enabled by technology. I have experienced many instances where technology was deployed or about to, without the readiness of the workforce or without truly understanding the problems that needed to be solved.


I now dedicate my time to coach and help organizations and leaders figure out how to be successful in the process of digital transformation and going through an unprecedented amount of complexity and speed of change.

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