Smart Manufacturing - The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Smart Manufacturing the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Smart Manufacturing has been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, since in recent years it has been modernizing industrial practices and has the potential to go even further. Smart Manufacturing was first devised in Germany, where it is called Industry 4.0, and heavily uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve industrial productivity.

According to NIST, smart manufacturing systems are fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet challenging demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs. These unique abilities of smart manufacturing technology derive from its advanced connectivity. Smart Manufacturing involves merging the physical and virtual worlds to meet manufacturing needs.

People generally think of the Industrial Revolution as a single era in time, but it extends far beyond that. The First Industrial Revolution spans from the late Eighteenth Century to the mid Nineteenth Century in Britain. Key developments during this time include moving textile production out of the home and into factories, iron and steel production, and the creation of the steam engine.

The Next Industrial Revolution
Manufacturing moved into factories during the First Industrial Revolution

The end of this period led into the Second Industrial Revolution, or the Technological Revolution, spanning mid Nineteenth Century to early Twentieth Century, in which innovations in railroads linked previously isolated communities, Henry Ford’s assembly line put mass production on a level greater than ever before, and electric generators brought much-more modern technology into people’s homes, such as the refrigerator. The Third Industrial Revolution is synonymous with the Digital Revolution, beginning in the late Twentieth Century and basically still happening today. From this, we have developments in computers, cell phones, etc.

So, does it actually seem like smart manufacturing will be the catalyst to an entire technological age? The biggest contribution of smart manufacturing for a manufacturing process is the increase in productivity. Since the system can manage itself in real-time, it can determine the best outlook for operations and implement procedures and safety protocols for the future through the use of its gained knowledge. This can help to cut costs.

Smart Manufacturing also gives manufacturers the tools to analyze data and assess certain test simulations to find new ways to improve their performance. It gives small manufacturers the ability to access new forms of business intelligence, which could help them in innumerable ways.

Smart Manufacturing

In the United States, where 12 million people are currently employed in manufacturing, the new technologies that will come from enhanced intelligence in the factories might seem threatening. However, not only does it reduce the hazards posed for current workers, but, due to the involvement of IT, smart manufacturing has the potential to employ three or four times as many people than regular manufacturing. In addition, possessing this technology in the United States can encourage the establishment of more domestic manufacturing facilities, which are often located abroad due to heavy costs in the nation.

The European Commission is currently investing $1.15 billion into a “Factories of the Future” public-private partnership to develop competition for a smarter manufacturing sector in the European Union. ANSI has begun an ANSI Virtual Technical Advisory Group (VTAG) for ISO/TMB Strategic Advisory group on Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing. While still in its early processes, this group can shape the impact of smart manufacturing on the industry and will likely recommend standards and other actions addressing gaps in current manufacturing and production guidelines.

Just as the Technological Revolution consecutively followed the original Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could soon be among us, following the path that has been shaped from the Digital Revolution. Efforts taken through standardization and legislation can allow smart manufacturing to alter the production process, but their ultimate impact will need to be observed in the upcoming years.
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