Get ready for Industry 4.0 with the cloud.

The three previous industrial revolutions have driven bigtime growth and transformed the manufacturing industry. Now we are in the midst of another transition period, Industry 4.0. Do you have what it takes to seize the new opportunities to boost productivity and innovation that Industry 4.0 will bring? Can you adapt your business models and ways of working fast enough to meet the new customer demands on the horizon?

If you don’t want to be caught unprepared, keep your eye on the latest manufacturing trends and build a technological foundation to meet new demands. To do this, you need to adopt new technologies powered by the flexibility and agility of the cloud.

Manufacturing trends demand new technology

The past 50 years since the 3rd industrial revolution did not see any ground-breaking improvement in productivity at the level of the past three industrial revolutions. This period was characterized by the outsourcing of factories to countries with cheaper costs of labour, consolidation into larger factories and increasing product specialization. However, growing customer demands for faster delivery, cheaper shipping, and more sustainable manufacturing are expected to reverse the outsourcing trend and bring factories back to home markets.

Instead of driving efficiencies by consolidating factory clusters in one location and cheap costs of labor, manufacturers will be challenged to find new ways of being profitable and efficient. Additionally, rising demand for made-to-order products at the same cost as mass production poses the challenge of how to deliver customization at scale and transition single-product facilities to multi-product.

Around 75% of all consumer-facing manufacturing companies will have transformed their supply chains to manage customization at scale by 2025.

These challenges all require new technologies. For instance, additive manufacturing, which is 3D printing when applied in the manufacturing industry, holds great promise for powering customization at scale. Just imagine how much more flexible product development could be with simulations driven by virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). How about how much more efficiently you could meet all these demands with predictive maintenance powered by data from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

Deloitte reports that predictive maintenance can:

  • Cut maintenance planning time (20–50%)
  • Increase equipment uptime and availability (10–20%)
  • Reduce overall maintenance costs (5–10%)

New technologies pose new challenges

If you want to unlock the power of the new technologies that will play a big role in Industry 4.0, you’ll need the capability to meet several new challenges they pose. For example, Internet of Things devices typically used in manufacturing like sensors and digital control systems can be difficult for the IT department to identify centrally and secure properly.

The global IIoT market is expected to be worth USD 949.42 billion by 2025
Grand View Research

A majority of cyber security professionals surveyed by the Ponemon Institute believe that, within two years, unsecured IoT devices will lead to

  • a cyber attack (76%)
  • a data breach (78%)

Manufacturing companies also face the challenge of what to do with all the data obtained from the numerous IoT devices used in Industry 4.0. This separate data is useless if you can’t bring it all together in a single cloud platform and analyse it with advanced cloud-powered data analytics capabilities. Another major challenge of Industry 4.0 is achieving better integration – getting various devices and systems to “talk to each other” and enabling them to be managed jointly.

Horizontal integration involves integrating systems and processes across the production floor. Vertical integration is about achieving better coordination between the production floor and other business processes above, like procurement and quality control. Both horizontal and vertical integration require the capability for data to flow seamlessly between many different systems. This requires a cloud-based platform and the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT).

IT/OT convergence depends on digital transformation

One of the greatest barriers to realizing the full potential of Industry 4.0 has been the lack of coherence, integration and connectivity between IT and OT. Traditionally, operations technology solutions like advanced assembly-line robots have been largely selected, deployed and budgeted separately from IT. By 2023, IDC estimates that 50% of spend on digital transformation initiatives in manufacturing will come from dedicated digital transformation budgets. This is a sign that digital transformation projects help to bring together IT and OT at all levels.

By creating the right foundation with a cloud-based platform, you can accelerate digital transformation, enable innovation and get the most out of new technologies. With new technologies like IIoT, additive manufacturing and advanced robotics expected to play a leading role in Industry 4.0, developing the capability to utilize them should be at the top of your agenda.