According to various sources, we are in the middle of the so-called 4th industrial revolution. This revolution is basically lead by a very high degree of automation and IT systems. Until recently, IT played mainly a support role in the industry, but with new technologies the role will change dramatically: it will lead the industry. Industry 4.0 (or Industrie 4.0) is mainly lead by Germany which places a high bet on that topic. The industrial output of germany is high and in order to maintain it’s global position, the german industry has to – and will – change dramatically.
Let’s first look at the past industrial revolutions:
- The first industrial revolution took place in the 18th century. This happend when the mechanical loom was introduced.
- The second industrial revolution took place in the early 20th century, when assembly lines were introduced
- In the 70th and 80th of the last century, the 3rd industrial revolution took place. Machines could now work on repeatable tasks and robots were first introduced
The 4th industrial revolution is now lead dramatically by the IT industry. It is not only about supporting the assembly lines but it is about replacing them. The customer can define it’s own product and make it really individual. Designers can offer templates in online stores and the product then knows how it will be produced. The product selects in what fabric it will be produced and tells the machines how it should be handled.
Everything in this process is fully automated. It starts by ordering something online. The transportation process is automated as well – autonomous systems deliver individual parts to the fabrics and this goes well beyond traditional just-in-time delivery. This is also a democratization of design: just like individuals can now write their books without a publisher as e-books, designers can provide their designs online on new platforms. This gives new opportunities to designers as well as customers.
As with Smart Homes and Smart Cities, this produces not only a lot of data – it also requires sophisticated back-end systems in the cloud that take care of this complex processes. Business processes need to be adjusted to the new challenges and they are more complex than ever. This can’t be handled by one single system – this needs a complex system running in the cloud.