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While Industry 4.0 does revolve around intelligence gathered from a number of places, it spans more than just IoT.

Over the past 10 years, 70% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list have vanished. Although this statistic may invoke fear, what it should do is demonstrate the importance of capitalizing on change instead of fearing it.

One country that has taken a proactive approach to this is Germany, with the founding of Industry 4.0, its vision for the future of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution – is a term that encompasses a variety of contemporary automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies. The natural evolution of technology and pushing of boundaries is what has really facilitated the creation of Industry 4.0.

One trend we’re seeing is people using the terms Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT), even the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) interchangeably. While Industry 4.0 does revolve around intelligence gathered from a number of places – including the manufacturing process, it spans more than just IoT, encompassing advanced automation, additive manufacturing and augmented reality, to name but a few.

Manufacturers need to ensure that they truly understand the trend, the associated positives and how business at all levels will be impacted. Those who do will emerge stronger, while their competitors disappear into insignificance.

Looking beyond Industry 4.0

The failure to react to new technologies, in this case, Industry 4.0, could well be catastrophic for some manufacturing firms. It should be a business priority to take stock of what technologies you are currently deploying and what you could still do. How would you rank yourself out of 10 on a journey towards true digitization, for example, or automation and data analytics?

If you’re not sure what your journey even looks like then you could be falling behind – don’t become the next Woolworths or Kodak.

While it’s clear that the technologies behind Industry 4.0 should be central to any planned implementation, one area not to be overlooked is around the skills associated with it – both in the current and future workforce.

WearablesAlthough not necessarily captured in Industry 4.0 (which by its very nature is focused on industry technologies), organizations need to also look at disruptive consumer technologies, such as wearables, and work out how they can be beneficial across the enterprise.

Using smart watches to send predefined notifications and updates in line with the user’s role and requirements has been a focus for IFS. For example, field service operatives could be alerted when important items are shipped, key projects are started or completed, or even notified when invoices are paid.

Don’t try to measure everything at once or you’ll end up with more data than you can handle.

Avoiding the hype

Evidentially, Industry 4.0 and IoT are great for introducing new and innovative methods into the manufacturing process; however, it’s important not to run before you can walk. It can be easy to be drawn into the IoT hype and spend money on sensors that aren’t 100% necessary and waste resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

The IoT market is ever changing, with new companies bringing new products to the market space almost constantly. You don’t want to install sensors throughout your factory just for something bigger and better to come out a few months later. Anyone embarking on an IoT journey to increase productivity needs to start small.

Don’t try to measure everything at once or you’ll end up with more data than you can handle. Take a step back and determine what’s important to you – perhaps there’s a particular supply chain that’s running slowly and you want to get an accurate reading, or you need to monitor a remote site instead of spending money by sending personnel.

Manufacturing analytics is a key part of Industry 4.0 and is something that the industry is rapidly embracing. When I speak to colleagues in the industry, it’s clear that we’re embracing digitization and everything it has to offer. However, it’s important to keep a balance between embracing innovation and being able to distinguish between “new” and “useful.”

Do you have questions or comments about Industry 4.0?

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