Connected manufacturing is a business strategy that leverages cloud computing to harness operational and business data for greater visibility, efficiency, control, and customer satisfaction. That means big change for the industry, but also big opportunities for your business. In order to keep up with the rising tide of big data and Industry 4.0, here’s what you need to know to help your company adapt.

The Influence of New Technologies

Industry 4.0 is considered to be the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector industry. Following the lean revolution of the 70s, the trend toward outsourcing in the 90s, and automation in the 2000s, the latest revolution is expected to be driven by key industry disruptions such as the rise in data created and collected, computational power and connectivity, analytics and business intelligence capabilities. New forms of human-machine interaction including touch interface and augmented-reality systems as well as improvements in advanced robotics and 3-D printing have further influenced the shift in industry trends.

The Cost of Connectivity

These new technologies are now more reliable and more available than ever which are two key driving forces behind the changes within the industry. However, upgrading machinery and processes to fully take advantage of these exciting capabilities can be a costly endeavor. Manufacturing executives estimated that between 40 and 50 percent of today’s machines will require replacing or at least a significant upgrade. While the benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies are numerous, the process of bringing machinery and factories up to speed can take time. Understanding the tipping point between the cost and benefits is important for both manufacturing companies and job candidates alike.

Possible Response Strategies

Manufacturers eager to leverage these new technologies within their own companies have essentially three options. Perhaps most easily addressed, companies can improve their data collection and use methodologies. Many manufacturers are already collecting vast amounts of information simply by doing business the way it is being done today. The problem is in how that information is stored and analyzed to produce actionable results. Correcting data inefficiencies can have a significant return on investment for companies interested in learning more about their customers, about their waste management, and productivity. The cloud technologies intrinsic to the world of connected manufacturing offer tools for effectively managing energy consumption, information storage, and even real-time yield optimization.

Additional Changes on the Horizon

While the data analytics and interconnectivity of connected manufacturing are bringing about big changes, they are certainly not the last advances we should expect to influence the market. New platforms similar to open-source software programs are also on the horizon. While it’s clear that new technologies are influencing the manufacturing industry, new processes and concepts are also changing the way companies do business. That’s a good thing, so long as you are prepared to adapt and evolve in ways that allow you to continue leveraging the latest technologies at the right time and in the right ways.

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