Manufacturing is constantly evolving and we are currently going through the age of increased digitization. While itโ€™s always changing, there have been three manufacturing revolutions in the past and we are currently seeing the fourth.

The first was the industrial revolution that started in Britain around 1760 with powered machinery used in the likes of the cotton industry. In the late 19th century, we saw the second revolution with electricity and mass production. The third came in the last century with the development of computers and robotics.

We are arguably seeing a forth revolution as the computing power of the 20th century has taken major leaps forward in the 21st.

A connected world

Automation is becoming commonplace in factories and we are starting to see with the Internet of Things how a connected system can change the face of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 will involve these automated systems making key decisions without any input.

As more data is collected, the decisions of these systems will improve. The end result will be a level of efficiency that we once didnโ€™t think possible. The digital connection of these devices make Industry 4.0 a possibility.

In each stage of these industrial revolutions, companies have had to keep up with technology or be left behind. Connected technology will be the next revolution that companies will have to follow. If they donโ€™t, their level of production will be less than their rivals.

What will change?

There are a number of possibilities for manufacturing with 4.0 advancements. Here we look at some of the key ways that businesses will be able to take advantage of Industry 4.0.

Find patterns โ€“ The more data that can be shared, the more patterns will emerge and opportunities can be found. This allows manufacturers to maximize their opportunities in a way that wouldnโ€™t be possible should it be done manually.

Streamline supply โ€“ A supply chain being disrupted can have huge knock-on effects for business. A connected system that can adapt to the likes of weather will increased efficiency. This will prevent delays or any shortages from happening.

Automated equipment โ€“ Automated warehouses are becoming more popular with drives, robotic arms and drones that will fill orders and pick up stock. There are also the likes of automated cranes that are able to move shipping containers and organize deliveries.

3D printing โ€“ Being able to make anything, at any time is going to help to revolutionize manufacturing. We have seen this with plastic 3D printing but recently we have seen other materials such as metal being used instead. The opportunities are endless.

Small business connection โ€“ There are plenty of examples of smaller businesses not having access to the same technology as their rivals. With the Internet of Things, smaller businesses are more likely to have access to technology that they couldnโ€™t usually afford.

Just the start

Time will tell just how powerful this revolution is. It could be that weโ€™re only at the start and Industry 4.0 will change manufacturing in ways we never thought possible. What is clear is that weโ€™re a million miles away from the steam-powered machines of the 18th century.

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