The future of manufacturing ... do all roads point to automation? Maybe not all, but some industries are trending in that direction.
According to a Forbes article, 35% of companies adopting Industry 4.0 expect revenue gains over 20% over the next five years.
Industry 4.0 is an idea that we are in the midst of our country’s fourth industrial revolution. One where the internet and automated systems will transform manufacturing. Particularly in the automotive industry.
Automation Alley is a business association that has more details on this concept.
They recently revealed a report that outlines where the automotive industry’s largest companies are headed. And how that trajectory affects the entire supply chain.
"We need to create a roadmap of where the bigs (automakers and large tier suppliers) are going and use that information to create actionable items so the entire ecosystem can adjust and know where to focus their efforts," said Tom Kelly, executive director of Automation Alley. "This report will hopefully get everyone on the same page, which is incredibly important, because Industry 4.0 is the antithesis to the siloed thinking this region is used to."
Automation Alley continues to research the trends and data. They focus on eight core technologies that Industry 4.0 encompasses:
The industrial Internet of Things
Advanced materials and additive manufacturing
Modeling, simulation, visualization and immersion
Industry 4.0 is based on the idea of using "smart factories." Or rather, using the internet and cloud computing to automate decisions and processes. Smart factories also strive to create communication among machines, workers, and the factory systems.
There are many perceived benefits of incorporating automation into the manufacturing industry, including the improvement of efficiency, quality, and product quality. But it does present challenges, too.
For instance, as giant companies and corporations like Ford continue to become more technologically advanced, it forces their smaller supply-base companies to find ways to keep up. Suppliers need to deliver products that will function within a high-tech and automation-based framework.
"The world (of manufacturing) is changing so fast, we can't assume any company really knows where it's headed," says Tom Kelly, executive director at Automation Alley. "But based on what's possible, we hope to help them turn this into action instead of stagnation."
Kelly continues, saying “We think we're mature enough to drive what the industry should be focused on. We can put our flag in the ground and say we should focus on new automation because change is coming ... rapidly. "
"Most of what we do, organizations like ours, is create a lot of information that we never turn into actual plans for the ecosystem," Kelly says. "It's a heavy lift, but we're going to try this. We need a center, particularly one based in Michigan, that is an agitator for all that is possible in manufacturing and we want to be that place where these companies go to get that knowledge and shift into action."
Automation Alley has teamed up with local colleges and universities to help conduct the ongoing research. Ford Motor Co., Comau, Siemens PLM, Eaton and Trumpf are the industry leaders that have also partnered on the project.