CTO & Co-Founder, Irish Manufacturing Research
The jump to Industry 4.0 can seem intimidating to some. We must make this a smooth, accessible transition for businesses to adopt, and help highlight the benefits of digitisation.
As we move beyond the initial hype of Industry 4.0, the manufacturing community is starting to grapple with the tangible business opportunities offered by emerging digitalisation and automation technologies.
However, the issue is frequently presented in terms of a binary transformation from today’s world to a future digital utopia.
The question could instead be articulated as: ‘What is the next step in my journey and is it taking me along the right path?’
It’s not always possible to answer that with 100% certainty, but standing still is not an option. The only constant is change and the pace of that change is accelerating.
What does the workforce of the future look like?
Future generations are looking at employers with a different set of lenses than before. They expect employers to be leaders in diversity, environmental awareness and to provide stimulating and rewarding work.
Key for most manufacturers is understanding the benefits of technology investments and defining a business model that makes sense.
Recent surveys of Gen-Zs entering the workforce highlight an expectation of continual career development, evolving roles and opportunities. Lifelong learning and skills development must be a key part of the future manufacturing environment with intuitive and personalised delivery to generations of digital natives.
Taking a leadership position in sustainability for a low-carbon economy.
The manufacturing industry is ideally placed to steer the global response for sustainability through proactive measures, that are strongly supported by new digital technologies.
These innovations include IoT-enabled efficient production, on-site renewable generation for zero net carbon production, and engagement in circular economy ecosystems that minimise the resource intensity of manufacturing supply chains.
Technology is changing at an unprecedented rate
New business models are bringing customer-centric solutions to market in a matter of weeks where, previously, this had taken years.
Advanced analytics feeding simulation and rapid production technologies mean that Formula One racing teams can build and race a new car every two weeks.
Digital supply-chains and 3D printing are enabling customers to order individual-fit sports-shoes at the price point of mass-production.
The key for most manufacturers is understanding the benefits of technology investments and defining a business model that makes sense in this environment.
Technology needs to support business evolution or, ideally, revolution – it cannot become simply a digital version of business as usual.
Real-world examples of customer success range from detecting a basic physical quantity and turning this into useful intelligence.
For example, detecting unoccupied spaces and turning off lights and AC; through to scheduling complex production environments via AI.
Knowledge, awareness and training are significant steps to take in order to demystify the technologies and de-risk future investment.