Smart factories: The new industrial revolution

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The manufacturing industry is witnessing the dawning of a new era, with Industry 4.0 and a burgeoning global automation market, Manufacturers' Monthly reports.
This has been boosted in Asia by the recently announced China 2020 vision, which outlines the country's plans to make a decided shift away from traditional manufacturing, and adopt new practices and technologies. Meanwhile, the market for industrial automation will reach more than $200 billion by the end of the year.
As the phenomenon gains traction in 2017, it's important that businesses keep an eye on its development and look at their existing strategies to assess how they can capitalise on this new phase of manufacturing.
Industry 4.0
Constant change and development means that businesses are forced to either disrupt or be disrupted, the article notes. Just as the smartphone spelled the death of the Nokia, and Uber disrupted the personal transport sector, so can Industry 4.0 render companies who refuse to adapt obsolete.
As global consultants McKinsey & Company points out, this revolution is being driven by four factors: an increase in data volumes and connectivity; the rise of business intelligence and analytics; improvements in how digital information is transferred to the physical world (eg. 3D printing); and new types of human-machine interaction.
In this new phase, technology is bringing these elements together to work more effectively than ever before.
Big data
The Internet of Things (IoT) is deserving of its hype. Not only does it enable machines to communicate with each other about their condition, temperature and so on, but it also provides manufacturing businesses with access to previously unattainable data about their operations. By harnessing these systems and optimizing their data flow, firms can boost productivity, efficiency and minimise risk by making their environment more predictable. They can also help to reduce waste and prevent systems failures, with the help of diagnostics.
The modern factory
Manufacturers across the globe are looking for ways to boost their productivity and efficiency – particularly in places like China, where labour costs are rising. Software solutions and smart devices are powering the modern smart factory, helping to reduce the issues and complications associated with new automation technologies. In fact, smart devices have proven themselves integral to the evolution of the manufacturing industry.
As the article notes, the next step will be for organisations to advocate a 'digital mindset' and take a pro-active stance. Industry 4.0 is something that will require a widespread change of approach, as well as empowered employees and ambassadors to pave the way.
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Industry 4.0



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