Monday, August 1, 2016

The Industrial Revolution Version 4.0

My grandparents grew up during the final transition from the 'Agriculture Age' into the 'Industrial Age' back in the early 1900's. I grew up in the 1960's and have lived and worked during the transition from the 'Industrial Age' into the 'Information Age' of the 21st Century. Imagine what advancements and massive changes our children and grandchildren will see and experience by 2050. They are already about to experience the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution that is dramatically altering current manufacturing processes in a wide range of industries as advanced manufacturing machines are married up with the latest information technologies. Read Redefining Our Purpose as Civilization Keeps Evolving.


The term "Industry 4.0" is often used to refer to the 4th Industrial Revolution. It involves the use of a variety of new strategies and multiple hi-tech technologies to further advance the current state of manufacturing systems in a wide range of industries, e.g. aviation, automobiles, appliances, electronics.

  • The 1st Industrial Revolution mobilised the mechanization of production using water and steam power back in the 19th century.
  • The 2nd Industrial Revolution then introduced mass production techniques coupled with the use of electrical power in the early 20th century.
  • The 3rd Industrial Revolution involved the use of computers and the growing field of information technology to further automate production processes during the latter part of the 20th century.
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution is now taking hold in the 21st century. It involves the convergence and use of multiple hi-tech solutions for use in the 'smart factories' of the future, e.g. Internet of Things, Robotics, 3-D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, Wearable Systems, Nanotechnology, Big Data, Cloud Computing...

The basic principle of Industry 4.0 is that by connecting manufacturing machines and information systems, businesses are now creating intelligent networks along the entire value chain that can control each other autonomously.
  • In Industry 4.0, one finds interconnected hi-tech 'intelligent' machines which can predict failures and trigger maintenance processes autonomously and self-aware logistic systems which can react rapidly to unexpected changes in production.
  • In the Industry 4.0 manufacturing scenario, boundaries of individual factories will also most likely no longer exist. Instead, there will be multiple interconnected 'smart factories' in different geographical regions.

Current Activities

Like the industrial revolutions that preceded it, the 4th Industrial Revolution has the potential to further raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. The development of 'smart factories' and manufacturing processes will bring a raft of benefits that will take companies to a new level with their operations. McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the annual economic impact of Industry 4.0 operations and equipment optimization will range between $1.2 trillion to $3.7 trillion in 2025.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is evolving at an exponential pace and is disrupting almost every industry in every country. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution may further increase the gap between wealthy business owners and labor workforce.


The transition to Industry 4.0 requires huge levels of change and new skills in every US company in the manufacturing industry, across their entire organization — touching almost every department and function.

To acquire these new skills, there is a need to form public-private-partnerships, cross-enterprise co-ops and new training programs at universities and technical schools to help adapt to the change that is now upon us. It's happening right now at our own Central Carolina Technology College in the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center.


While the US manufacturing industry moved many of its factories overseas over the past two decades to take advantage of cheap labor, note that many of those manufacturing companies are now moving operations back to the US – into new 'smart factories' of the future.

Smart factories have machines that are augmented with web connectivity and connected to a system that can visualize the entire production chain and make decisions on its own. Development of modern smart factories is well on its way and will change many of today's manufacturing jobs. By one estimate, as many as 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk from automation and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Europe is moving to embrace Industry 4.0 – and so are we. Get ready to see some major changes coming down the pike for he US manufacturing industry and its workforce.

Selected References

Video Links

Other Links – Organizations & Reports
Manufacturing Tomorrow – Industry 4.0

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