Industrial Revolution 4.0 – how smart is it?

There’s a lot of hype about it. There’s a lot of academic research about parts of it. But what is it?

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is a part of a series. 1.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by mechanization and steam in the late eighteenth century. 2.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by the assembly line and electrical energy in the late nineteenth century. 3.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by automation and computing in the late 1960s. 4.0 is about manufacturing enhanced by cloud-connected computing today and in the early twenty-first century. 4.0 is about data. Lots of it. Analyzing and responding to events in near real time.

But as Dave Evans, CEO of fictiv points out in his recent SxSW talk, if you’ve visited a manufacturer lately, the 4.0 just isn’t there. Not only that, but you can see the problems that could be avoided if it were already in place.

So how do we get to 4.0?

Evans points to a framework developed by Michael Mandel at Progressive Policy in DC. Mandel proposes that we need to invest in technology that enhances three areas of manufacturing:

  1. Digital Machines – how might putting sensors right on the tooling enhance operations?
  2. Digital Distribution – how might we change distribution to maximize locations of connected factories?
  3. Digital Networks – how might we make the most out of manufacturing ecosystems by building networks that allow us to see them more clearly?

Seems like more investment in these areas would be great for the manufacturing sector. Plus, what’s exciting to me as a person interested in Industrial Ecology, is how these technologies might also be used to measure and respond to the environmental and social impacts of Industrialization 4.0.

Now that would be a smart use of tech.


The 4th Industrial Revolution – Kemp Technologies

Michael Mandel’s work at Progressive Policy