As the tide of the Fourth Industrial Revolution rolls in, how will composite manufacturers ride the wave? EmergenTek, a Utah company, weighs in.

emergentek-uammi-composite-worldAbout 250 years ago, steam-powered machines began to displace manual labor in the Industrial Revolution. A Second Industrial Revolution, spurred mainly by electrical power, enabled the assembly lines and factory workflow. Think Henry Ford’s Model T. In the 1960s, computers spawned a Third Industrial Revolution, birthing digital design software and robotics. Key word? Automation.

Teaching machines to “think”
Today, there’s a Fourth Industrial Revolution. In it, integrated, intelligent cyber-physical systems — built around sensor-equipped manufacturing machines — are connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and are, therefore, able to autonomously manufacture digitally designed products, maintain their quality and perform activities along the entire value chain. Deloitte University Press (Sniderman, Mahto and Cotteleer, Feb. 22, 2016) calls it “the marriage of advanced manufacturing techniques with information technology, data and analytics.” Tech guru Chandrakant Patel of HP Labs (Palo Alto, CA, US) has been quoted as saying, “We are operating at the intersection of machine learning, data management and domain knowledge.”

There are several ways to refer to this trend, or aspects of it: Europeans refer to it as Industry (or Industrie) 4.0 (see the Side Story below), but it is also variously known as the IIoT, digital enterprise and digital thread. And in the US, the nonprofit initiative Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC, Los Angeles, CA, US) calls it smart manufacturing. Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing are used interchangeably here.

Industry 4.0 isn’t a “coming trend” or theoretical concept. It’s here, it’s real and is already having an impact in factories around the globe. General Electric (GE, Boston, MA, US), for example, calls its approach to it “Brilliant Manufacturing”: Its product design, engineering and manufacturing functions, its supply chain, logistics and distribution arms, its consumer buying trends data management and even its repair services are all interconnected in one globally scalable system.  Read More….