Thursday, December 22, 2016

6 Steps to Prepare for Industry 4.0

By Mike James, Chairman, MESA International Board of Directors 
"Manufacturing companies can take some simple steps to help prepare their business for change and the fourth industrial revolution".

In my last blog post, I outlined the technologies and thinking behind the fourth industrial revolution. The question still on the table is ‘what steps do manufacturers need to take to prepare for Industry 4.0?’ We know that manufacturing will be very different in 20 years’ time, but we also know that technologies, materials, IT and society are changing fast. So we will have to be prepared to be flexible, putting in place processes and technologies that are adaptable and will achieve a much faster return on investment.

To position your organization for change, start with these six basic actions:
  1. Establish a team to study Industry 4.0
  2. Get the team to study what exactly it is and how it will impact your business
  3. Encourage the team to attend events and ensure they meet regularly to brainstorm ideas
  4. Control and direct current investments
  5. Experiment with new technologies
  6. Be willing to try out different strategies, even if that means risking losing money. The ones that succeed will be the ones prepared to try out new ideas.

When charting the progress we’ve made through each of the industrial revolutions, it’s clear to see that as we’ve progressed, so has the degree of complexity in the technology we rely on. Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s we learned how to harness water and steam power to enable mechanical production. 

Nearly a century later, we developed assembly lines and started using electrical energy for mass production – the first powered assembly lines were used at scale in the Cincinnati slaughterhouses during the 1870s. More recently, we have developed IT systems to further automate production. And today, we’re starting to use cyber physical systems to create connected factories, devices and products.

Ultimately, barriers to implementation are around skills and security.  
To help overcome them, use resources and educational programs such as MESA's Global Education Program and the Manufacturing Operations Management Institute executive workshops.

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