Novi, Mich. — The concept of Industry 4.0 — the fourth industrial revolution utilizing smart factories, automation, integration and the internet of things — is just a "build-out from Henry Ford" and his installation of the modern assembly line, or Industry 2.0.
That's according to James Ricci, moderator of the Manufacturing 4.0 and the Automated Factory closing panel at the Plastics and Rubber in Automotive conference, held Jan. 15 in Novi.
"Industry 3.0 was really when we started to pull in some kinds of automation, whether it was robots, it was the advent of computer and controllers. It all started to get introduced into manufacturing," said Ricci, who is also chief technology officer of Harbour Results Inc. "Then, in the '80s, we were able to shrink the world through globalization and extend our enterprise with these same types of tools like computers, and we really call that Industry 3.5. … Maybe we'll have an Industry 5.0. Maybe what Industry 4.5 is, is this idea of taking artificial intelligence and deep learning and having man and machine kind of work together to really eliminate waste and improve efficiency. That's really what we're talking about here."
Ricci described technology like the human body as it relates to Industry 4.0: The muscles are automation, the sensors are robots, and the nervous system is the connectivity.
"Nobody really talks about the nervous system, but it's pretty important, and that's your IT infrastructure that kind of makes all this stuff work and function together and communicate and talk properly. And then most importantly in Industry 4.0 is all of this feeds up in your brain, and that's the critical piece because it's actually where we make ourselves smarter," he said.
Shaun Karn, president of large mold builder Hi-Tech Mold and Engineering Inc. and Baxter Enterprises LLC, said that in terms of applying Industry 4.0, he is looking at more data collection and using data to help predict things or make better decisions.
Automotive supplier Faurecia North America Advanced Manufacturing and Supply Chain Director Matt Myrand said the company's digital transformation is driven by the customer.
"They want a lower cost, they want higher quality, and they want more data-driven, less downtime for our machines," Myrand said.
Michelle Bockman, global head of 3D printing commercial expansion and development at HP Inc., said it's a common misconception that HP is just a 2D printer or PC company. The company decided in 2015 to go into the 3D printing market, and it starting shipping the first industrial printers in mid-2017, she said.
"We're fairly new in this market, and automotive is definitely a focus for us," Bockman said. "Our customers, when you look at Industry 4.0, we see that our customers are looking for productivity. They're looking to design things that they could never design before, whether it's lattice structures, things that are harder to design in traditional manufacturing and [harder to] make. We're really just helping customers with different business models and different, faster ways to get to market."
The business drivers behind Industry 4.0, Bockman said, involve "customization and personalization" as well as cost and time to market. Karn agreed, saying the biggest drivers are "looking at cost and looking at efficiencies."