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From Assembly Lines to Industry 4.0

When Henry Ford witnessed his moving assembly lines in 1913, he probably could not have envisioned the progress that concept would make, even during his own lifetime. Today, that progress continues to evolve into what many are referring to as the 4th industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.

While the concept of Industry 4.0 is not new, the need for companies of all sizes to implement these strategies continues to gain momentum. A recent article in Industry Week asked the question “can you afford to ignore it” but noted for many companies, their strategies are dead before they’re even out of the pilot stage.

In a previous newsletter, we asked the top reason companies hesitated implementing Industry 4.0 concepts. More than half of respondents blamed it on cost while a quarter admitted to not knowing how to apply it in their organization. Companies feel the concept is “too big to handle” or that it requires a large investment in software, training, and/or machinery.

There is also the confusion of Industry 4.0 vs advanced manufacturing. Vinitha Moskal, SEWN’s resident Industry 4.0 expert, provides a simple explanation of keeping the two separate. “Industry 4.0 is about making your organization a ‘smart company’ by leveraging technology in your day-to-day operations. Advanced manufacturing is a specialized industry that can differ from one company to another (i.e., robotics, additive manufacturing).” Both are important to manufacturing but Industry 4.0 is a scalable concept that companies of all sizes can implement without ever getting into advanced manufacturing.

Advanced technology capabilities can be quite comprehensive; however, there is also a basic business challenge for many companies in Pennsylvania. Regardless of products, processes or industry, most are members of a supply chain. Supply chain leaders are now requiring suppliers have the capability to communicate with and participate in the advanced technology processes being integrated within these top-tier organizations. Future contracts/business will be awarded to those organizations who have acquired the ability to meet these new smart manufacturing requirements.

SEWN has worked with companies facing this challenge on what we call a “technology roadmap” to help them understand, scope, and implement Industry 4.0 concepts in affordable and manageable stages. Before that can even begin, there is a process which assesses company components such as financial standing, work flow gaps and training opportunities for incumbent workers. If your company is interested in learning more about a technology roadmap plan, contact SEWN today for your no-cost consultation.


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