Technology has now evolved to a point where data will soon exist as a self-contained ecosystem, learning from and reacting to information shared between a network of devices. The good news is ever-developing technology is poised to provide a wealth of benefits for equipment manufacturers moving forward. However, as is the case with every previous Industrial Revolution in human history, the fourth iteration (also known as Industry 4.0) is experiencing its own set of growing pains as it rises to prominence. 

One of the many expected outcomes of Industry 4.0 is manufacturing activities in the not-too-distant future will likely require skilled workers to be able to act as technology-minded creative problem solvers. And while the increased prevalence of advanced monitoring technology should eventually lead to faster and more efficient manufacturing processes, the data these processes produce will need to be analyzed by and leveraged by employees.

History of Industrial Revolutions

To fully appreciate the role of data as a driver of Industry 4.0, it’s important for equipment manufacturers to understand the first three. Most of us were taught in school that the first Industrial Revolution occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it marked a notable shift in manufacturing from skilled craftsmen making a low volume of products to factories mass-producing goods.

Then came the second Industrial Revolution. Much like the one we’re currently experiencing today, the second Industrial Revolution was defined by efforts to advance and improve technology. Electricity and the modern assembly line profoundly impacted the efficiency of processes and made it possible for manufacturers to dramatically increase production.

The third Industrial Revolution is the one most of us are acquainted with, as it took place not all that long ago. The rise of personal computers and the invention of the Internet during the 1990s sparked transformative change in the manufacturing industry and beyond, offering the world new and more efficient ways of doing pretty much everything.

Now Industry 4.0 is here, and we’re seeing another period where technical processes are made better and more efficient – whether it’s global commerce and healthcare, or even something as simple as tracking how much we walk in a day.

Data’s Role in the Industrial Revolution

How the latest Industrial Revolution uses data to improve manufacturing is a lot like how electricity works. But instead of providing energy to keep a facility’s lights on and its machines moving, data creates a smarter way for us to do our jobs. And we can learn so much from this data: when to run, how much to make, or how to best address the health of equipment.

A term often associated with Industry 4.0 is the “Internet of Things,” (IoT) which refers to the increasing connectivity of our world. Examples of IoT  are everywhere today: smart thermostats, fitness trackers and voice-controlled smart devices, just to name a few. But how does this affect manufacturing?

The equipment of the future will be able to tell us exactly what is wrong, and the days of guessing and downtime will be behind us. We won’t know exactly all that Industry 4.0 has to offer until it reaches its full potential. But with all we’ve seen thus far, equipment manufacturers can expect their facilities to be more dependable, reliable and --  most importantly -- profitable.

Amy Donahue-Kelley joined General Kinematics in 2013 and manages the Marketing Department. Amy received a Communications degree and is near completion of her MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Since Amy started at GK, she has managed the global marketing efforts and written several technical articles. She enjoys visiting customers and understanding how GK equipment can improve their processes.

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