Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has been discussed a great deal in 2018. At INSPHERE we feel that Industry 4.0 will indeed live up to the current hype, and that metrology data will be the key enabler that delivers truly smart manufacturing and drives productivity to a higher level. 

Can revolutions can be mapped out in advance? Do they truly drive changes or are they just the result of incremental development? These questions are still relevant today – they may help us to take an objective look at whether i4.0 is just marketing jargon or a genuinely transformative event. To help answer these questions in the context of the present day, INSPHERE will be releasing a series of articles over the coming months, looking both backwards through history and forwards into the short and medium-term future.

An Introduction to a Series of New Articles in 2019

Taking each industrial revolution in turn, we will consider what made it special, what changes precipitated it, and what events it subsequently triggered. We will look carefully at what lessons can be learned for modern manufacturing, and whether history can guide us to predict what prospects lie around the corner.

The First

The First Industrial Revolution, gaining pace in the late eighteenth century, marked the transition from handmade goods to machine-based manufacturing. Increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the growth of large factories all contributed to a transformation in productivity of goods. They also triggered huge infrastructure changes and increases in population.

The First Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing

The First Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing

The Second

The Second Industrial Revolution, sometimes called the Technological Revolution, came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Advances in manufacturing processes, and the development of power stations and widespread electrification, led to mass-production techniques and assembly lines, and the concept of interchangeability of parts. 

Model T Ford production line, “you can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black”

Model T Ford production line, “you can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black”

The Third

The Third Industrial Revolution is attributed to the shift from mechanical systems and analogue electronics to digital electronics in the 1960s and 70s. The rapid and sweeping changes enabled by digital computing and communications technology marked the start of the Information Age. In terms of manufacturing, automated robotic systems were able to replace manpower in an increasing variety of assembly lines and other manufacturing systems. 

This famous advert in the 1970s heralded a new age in automotive manufacturing

This famous advert in the 1970s heralded a new age in automotive manufacturing

The Fourth

The fourth industrial revolution is perhaps the most “trailered” in history. Normally major global changes creep up on us unannounced and are documented by historians after the event, but i4.0 has indisputably been “launched”. It concerns the changes that are becoming possible through the intelligent use of manufacturing data. Machines and robotic processes are increasingly becoming adaptive, intelligent, decision-making systems. Manufacturing has perhaps lagged behind commerce and finance in the use of big-data to control complex systems, but these changes are coming, and they are coming fast. 

We are marching into a future as uncertain as it is exciting!

We are marching into a future as uncertain as it is exciting!

Through a series of articles in 2019, we aim to discuss what has gone before, partly to cast more light on what is happening now, but also to gaze into the crystal ball of what is still to come. 

 

It is nearly Christmas, and perhaps not a bad time to remember A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge is encouraged to consider not only Christmas past and present, but also Christmas yet to come, and we will attempt to do the same. Until then, all at INSPHERE would like to wish our readership a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

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