If you start back at the Industrial Revolution, it’s hard to imagine the many changes that manufacturing has gone through. Some changes have been small and some are so big that it has changed the way we do business altogether. Manufacturing automation, lean manufacturing, and e-commerce are just a few practices that have changed the way companies do business. Today, we are preparing for the fourth wave of manufacturing; is your business prepared?
The world of manufacturing got its start during the first Industrial Revolution, when machines made everything from producing cotton to weaving textiles easier. The second Industrial Revolution found manufacturers like Henry Ford incorporating mass production techniques into their factories to quickly and inexpensively bring goods to the public.
During the third wave of manufacturing, data became important to how manufacturers automated production. Information technology, manufacturing automation, and other advances lessened the human touch on the assembly line while simultaneously producing goods and services quickly and cheaply.
Now we are entering the fourth wave of manufacturing existence. This fourth phase of manufacturing harnesses the amazing use of cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring goods to customers with more precision and accuracy than ever before.
Customer-Centric Goods that are Mass-Produced
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only way to make goods for sale was to make them by hand. Cobblers got to know the bunions, bumps, and arches of the feet of their customers; shoes were hand tooled. After the Industrial Revolution, shoes were mass-produced. They fit most feet, and that was acceptable.
Today’s cyber-physical systems marry technology back to personalization to enhance the customer experience. With new advances in computer technology such as 3D printing, cloud computing, and IoT, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that the factories of tomorrow will receive inputs from shoe stores on Main Street and custom-built shoes to fit your feet. They’re mass-produced forms customized to fit.
Shoes are a good example because no two feet are the same. But such marriage of technology to customer needs can occur in business-to-business sectors too. Imagine a world in which plastic is formed into bumpers for cars not based on mass orders (“Give us 50 bumpers by Friday”) but custom orders (“We need 6 for sports cars, 13 for SUVs, and 31 for sedans.”)
The Fourth Wave is Dependent on Data
We’re not quite at the point in which custom orders can be made so precisely. Although manufacturers may soon have the technology to custom-produce shoes, clothes, automobile bumpers, or lenses for microscopes, it’s much more common to produce mass runs of goods than custom runs.
Enter predictive analytics, the wave of the future for manufacturers. With predictive analytics, computer systems learn from the inputs they receive. They can scan orders, for example, and find patterns to predict future ordering trends. Manufacturers can then use data to produce a close match between supply and demand.
Prepare to Ride the Fourth Wave of Manufacturing
Computers changed the face of manufacturing in the 1980’s from mass production into technology-based production. Today’s new systems are slowly turning manufacturers away from technology and into the world of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and custom orders.
Have we come full circle? Or are we forging into unknown territory? Regardless, technology upgrades and new strategies are needed for manufacturers to ride the fourth wave.
Time to Ride the Wave
Ready or not, it’s time to ride that wave. PositiveVision’s manufacturing automation and software systems can help businesses control costs and maximize profits by using new technology. PositiveVision has the expertise and experience to help you find the right balance between stocking the right inventory and minimizing costs. Our manufacturing ERP solutions, like SYSPRO and Sage 300 will help you ensure that your operations run as smoothly as possible while lowering costs, enhancing vendor relationships and increasing customer loyalty.
Learn more about the future of manufacturing by downloading our free white paper: The Internet of Things 4.0