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Industry 4.0 and what it means for your small business

Expo News | October 4, 2019 | By:

Jonathan Palmer, CEO of Autometrix, presented the education session “Industry 4.0 for Small Businesses” at IFAI Expo 2019 in Orlando, Fla.

Industry 4.0 is a German initiative that began in 2011. The loose definition focuses on four main areas: interconnection (sensors, machines and devices), information (free-flowing info), assistance (robots/technology making a worker’s job easier and more efficient), and better decisions.

In Palmer’s opinion, Industry 4.0 has not yet been achieved, and today’s industry ranges somewhere between Industry 3.7 and Industry 3.9. He says issues that stand in the way between the industry of today and Industry 4.0 include:

  • High costs of upfront investments for new systems, software and technology
  • Every business having to create a new business model
  • Unclear ROI
  • No agreement about buzzwords associated with Industry 4.0.

Palmer says Industry 4.0’s idealized process goes beyond today’s standard process and includes:

  • Design-must be designed/stored in CAD; completely digital
  • Define-product is made up of a group of patterns/material types; defined digitally
  • Plan-take orders in software; process as many orders at once
  • Cut-load prepared files for machine cutting; cut file is based on material, not order or product; all done on software.
  • Assemble-complete kits of parts are definition of the product, ecommerce, plan, inventory, movement (moving robots/inventory moving), cut (done by machines), cloud (all machines are connected to the cloud), movement, assemble, deliver and track.

While large corporations have the capacity to make upfront investments for high-tech solutions, smaller businesses will find it more challenging to prepare for the future. Palmer suggests companies not wait until Industry 4.0 has arrived, but instead identify principles to apply, recognize that technology will continue to evolve, and choose to partner with companies that can support and build toward the future.

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