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Why Should You Care About Industry 4.0?

When was the last time you and your colleagues were talking about how difficult it is to find the “right” worker these days; someone who has great social skills, shows up for work on time, and really appreciates having a job, no matter how menial it may be? I bet it was in the last two weeks.

Guess what?  You are not going to find them. They generally do not exist.

In fact, just finding workers is more than a chore – it seems like trying to win the lottery. Why? Well, we are at nearly full employment in the U.S., and the workforce is aging, rapidly, as baby boomers retire. In fact, research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015 projects the U.S. workforce, depending on the rates of immigration, will peak in 2019! Everyone is chasing after the same workers, looking for the ideal fit. Increasingly, that is a zero-sum game, unless you are a premier employer of choice. 

According to the Boston Consulting Group (https://www.bcg.com/en-us/capabilities/operations/embracing-industry-4.0-rediscovering-growth.aspx), the rise of new digital industrial technology, known as Industry 4.0, is a transformation that makes it possible to gather and analyze data across machines, enabling faster, more flexible, and more efficient processes to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs. This manufacturing revolution will increase productivity, shift economics, foster industrial growth, and modify the profile of the workforce—ultimately changing the competitiveness of companies and regions.

Across the globe, companies large and small are digitally transforming their businesses. Nine technologies are being embraced. These are:

  • Advanced Robotics
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Augmented Reality
  • Simulation (Digital Twins)
  • Horizontal and Vertical Integration
  • Industrial Internet
  • Cloud
  • Cybersecurity
  • Big Data & Analytics

For the small to mid-sized manufacturer, the first question we hear is “where do I begin?” The second question is most often “how do I achieve a reasonable return on investment?”

GENEDGE, the Virginia Affiliate of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, can help. The process we suggest is as follows:

Building awareness of the technologies is fundamental. Take advantage of seminars, webinars, and articles on Industry 4.0. Probably not everything is for you. Assessing your opportunities follows with a capable expert, that is probably not interested in selling you the latest gadgets. The biggest challenge is identifying your readiness to adopt one or more of these technologies into your operations. This in many cases requires shaping your workforce, retraining your existing team and / or identifying partners in the local ecosystem who can help. Finally, creating and executing an implementation roadmap at a pace of change you can manage is the key to success!

For further information or discussion, feel free to contact Pete Miles, pmiles@genedge.org  our Technology Acceleration Manager. Pete can help you make the connections you need to begin the journey.

By Bill Donohue, President, Executive Director, GENEDGE

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