I was recently at a forum for entrepreneurs at Strathmore Business School, sharing my journey in manufacturing. The panel moderator posed an interesting question to me: “If you were to go back and start afresh, what would you do differently?” I shared my dream of owning a smart factory in the near future. From smartphones to smart fridges, technology has played a major role in advancing most areas of our everyday lives – but it is also transforming the world of industry.
Industry 4.0 introduces what has been called the “smart factory,” in which factories will become increasingly automated and self-monitoring as the machines within are given the ability to analyse and communicate with each other and their human co-workers, granting companies much smoother processes that free up workers for other tasks.
The rise of new digital industrial technology, 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.
Nothing defines an industrial revolution better than the technology involved, so it’s worth considering what to expect from the machinery and software of Industry 4.0. As a technology, 3D printing has seen incredible advancement over the past decade, steadily progressing from prototyping to production and other applications.
The answer to question whether SMEs will benefit from Industry 4.0 seems to be, “Yes,” though with the qualification that they may take some time, if previous revolutions are any indication. On the other hand, the pace of change in industrial revolutions does seem to be accelerating: Industry 1.0 arose over a period of 80 years and Industry 2.0 in a little more than half that time. The pace of change with automation in Industry 3.0 should be recent enough to be obvious. Regardless, one thing is certain: the pace of Industry 4.0 will be set by SMEs. Industry 4.0 isn’t just about investing in new technology and tools to improve manufacturing efficiency—it’s about revolutionizing the way your entire business operates and grows.