For many manufacturers the grandiose concept of a fourth industrial revolution has been unhelpfully hyperbolic. But is Industry 4.0 now beginning to move into the realm of day-today reality?
For anyone with a stake in engineering and technology Industry 4.0 – manufacturing’s version of the internet of things – has become an unavoidable buzzword over the past few years.
And as with any buzzword, whilst it may be catchy and trip nicely off the tongue of politicians, it’s fair to say that industry in general has struggled to define exactly what it is, and articulate clearly how it can benefit manufacturers of all shapes and sizes.
It seems that this is now beginning to change.
At last week’s MACH trade-show, the UK’s biggest showcase of manufacturing technology, Industry 4.0 loomed large with manufacturers large and small showcasing equipment with Industry 4.0 features, and trumpeting the productivity-enhancing benefits of increased levels of data and connectivity.
Most interestingly – in a concerted effort to counter the perception that Industry 4.0 requires the kind of investment only available to big tier ones and OEMs – there was a strong emphasis on how SMEs can also tap into its advantages. By far the most compelling illustration of this could be found on the stand occupied by Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which had equipped two ageing workhorses of the machine shop – a Bridgport Milling machine and a 1956 Colchester Bantam lathe – with low cost, performance enhancing digital technologies.
In this week’s poll we’re asking readers for their own take on Industry 4.0. Has it finally moved beyond the hype? And is it beginning to have an impact on the way your business operates? In short, has the Industry 4.0 era finally dawned?