Industrial automation is a topic of conversation that manufacturers all over the globe are discussing on the shop floors of production facilities and in board rooms. Industrial automation is no longer an optional component of manufacturing industries. In order to remain competitive, industrial automation must be considered to maintain a level of competitiveness in modern manufacturing scenarios.

What Is Industrial Automation?

As far as an Industrial automation definition is concerned, the concept can be defined as completing an operation or procedure without human assistance by utilizing control systems, such as computers or robots, and information technologies, like ERP platforms and EDI, for handling different processes and machinery.

Types of Industrial Automation

There are several types of industrial automation in use today. They can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Fixed (Hard) Automation

  2. Programmable Automation

  3. Flexible (Soft) Automation

  4. Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

These types of automation are leveraged in different scenarios, some data-driven and some production-driven. We’ll go into that a little later.

For now, it’s important to understand that industrial automation technologies and concepts can be applied most readily to data collection, data processing, and predictable physical work, such as welding, soldering, painting, food prep, packaging, and materials handling.

Fixed (Hard) Automation

Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment to automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations.

an image of fixed (hard) automation in industrial automation

In this example, the application is usually simple and will involve a process or assembly that is dictated by programmed commands. It is relatively difficult to accommodate changes in the product design in a fixed automation process, which is set up with one purpose or process per application in mind.

Fixed (Hard) Automation Examples include:

  • Mechanized assembly
  • Machining transfer lines
  • Automated material handling

Fixed (Hard) Automation Advantages:

  • High production rates
  • Low unit cost

Fixed (Hard) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Relatively inflexible in accommodating product variety
  • High initial investment for custom-engineered equipment
  • High vulnerability to failure
  • Obsolescence

Programmable Automation

In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations.

an image of programmable automation in industrial automation

Programmable automation is used most often when manufacturing products in batches. It allows for customization and frequent changes throughout the manufacturing process.

In this case, the operation is controlled by a program of instructions that are read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the hardware to produce new products at any time.

Programmable Automation Examples include:

  • Computer Numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Industrial robots
  • Programmable logic controllers (PLC)

Programmable Automation Advantages:

  • Flexible and able to deal with design variations
  • Suitable for batch production

Programmable Automation Disadvantages:

  • High investment in general purpose equipment
  • Lower production rate than fixed automation

Flexible (Soft) Automation

With flexible automation, several machine tools are linked together by a material-handling system, and all components of the system are controlled by a central computer. This configuration offers rapid and smooth changes to products and processes.

an example of soft (flexible) automation

Utilizing multiple tools that are linked by a material handling system, like this rotary indexer, a flexible approach to automation is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changes in the configuration. The same is true when reprogramming the system or altering the physical set up.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Examples Include:

Robot arms that can be programmed to assume multiple tasks, such as insert screws, drill holes, sand, weld, insert rivets, and spray paint objects on an assembly line.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Advantages:

  • Continuous production of variable mixtures of products
  • Flexible to deal with product design variation
  • Offers Medium production rate

Flexible (Soft) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Requires High amount of investment
  • High unit cost relative to fixed automation

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA)

More of a philosophy pioneered by Siemens Automation and Drives than a tangible system, TIA includes several core concepts:

  • A common software environment
  • A common data management system
  • A common communication method

 TIA implementation is ideal for many industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • General machine construction
  • Special-purpose machine manufacturing
  • Standard mechanical equipment manufacturer, OEMs
  • Plastics processing
  • The packaging industry
  • Food, beverages and tobacco industries

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA) Defining Characteristics:

  • Facilitates shorter time-to-market
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower life-cycle costs
  • Reduced complexity
  • Greater security of investment

Industrial Automation With ERP And EDI

In the past, ERP software has served, in large part, to automate traditional business functions and record-keeping activities. Today, IIoT technologies extend those automation capabilities to the production floor. Taking into account the vast amounts of data production processes, robotics, and edge devices provide to centralized ERP systems, maintenance schedules, demand planning, and reporting can all be completed without the need for human intervention. By setting conditions and responses within the ERP system, users can monitor facility operations to expend energy or resources only when conditions warrant. The results are a more connected, streamlined business from the shop floor to the top floor with less waste at every level.

EDI further optimizes operations by eliminating manual communications between trading partners that used to take the form of faxes, phone calls, and emails. Electronic Data Interchange is an ERP agnostic technology that communicates critical order and shipping details instantaneously between digital devices. Standardized document formats, ensure that your logistics are in sync. Data exchanged through EDI is kept secure end-to-end and remains easy to interpret for both active orders and historical records.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

With the many concepts of Industry 5.0 already lending fantastic possibilities to manufacturing industries across the board, the disruption potential of its components in the world of beverage manufacturing is nothing short of groundbreaking. Beer, Wine, and Spirits are some of the most complex and subjective tastes being explored among discerning palates the world over. Here’s how AI and mass personalization are bringing a personal touch to these industries.

A Mass Personalization App For Your Tastebuds: Gastrograph

The beverage aisles of convenience stores, groceries, and big-box stores offer the illusion of diversity, with dozens, if not hundreds, of drinks available for purchase. However, these beverages have undergone massive amounts of testing and QA to market them to the widest audience possible. The overarching “cast the widest net” philosophy of food and beverage manufacturers has left a sour taste in the mouths of many consumers. CEO of NYC-based Analytic Flavor Systems, Jason Cohen, offered as much in an interview with The New Food Economy, “My take is that pretty much all the food and beverage products on the market today are awful,” he explains. “There are literally no products engineered for me.” And Cohen is right. Manufacturers have formulated snacks and drinks for decades with the right amount of salt, sugar, and fat to hit the proverbial “sweet spot” for consumers. What Cohen’s start-up aims to do is enable consumers to find the foods that fit their ideal flavor profile. How does he plan to do so? Artificial Intelligence and mass personalization.

It doesn’t stop at taste, either. Moisture level, texture, gaminess, and a host of other characteristics fall under designations in the Analytic Flavor Systems Gastrograph app, a categorization spectrum that takes into account 24 different touchpoints with varying levels of intensity. Submenus under each characteristic allow for even further analysis. A sample Flavor Analysis of Dogfish Head’s 120-minute IPA was mapped in The New Food Economy’s article highlighting the app and larger topic of AI and mass personalization in beverage manufacturing.

AI and Mass Personalization helps Beverage Manufacturing

A flavor analysis of a craft beer, Dogfish Head’s 120-minute IPA, mapped using the Gastrograph app.

The personalized flavor profiling concept emerged during Cohen’s studies in Information Sciences and Technology. Cohen didn’t finish his graduate degree, but instead opted to pursue his project with Analytic Flavor Systems and Gastrograph App. Now touted as the first artificial intelligence platform to understand human sensory perception. Some of the biggest names in beverage are leveraging Cohen’s services. While it remains to be seen how strongly one can lean on the findings of the Gastrograph AI, the happening could be signal a new era of consumer profiling practices where food and beverage makers will make this sensory profiling a compulsory part of research when developing new products.

Craft Beverage Makers Make Impact Among US Manufacturers

Among the 10 fastest growing industries in the US is the beverage manufacturing industry ranks third, which only highlights the importance of innovation in the fields of gastronomy and manufacturing. Beverage manufacturing ranks just below Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction and highest-ranking Support Activities for Mining. The three experienced 44.9%, 17.1% and 17.1% growth in sales, from first to third ranking. This designation for beverages included everything from breweries to water and soft drinks. Sageworks analyst Libby Bierman offered comment following the recently released report that, “If you think about the rise in microbreweries and taprooms, it may not be that surprising to see these manufacturers nearing the top of the list.” The report itself relies on cooperative data gleaned from financial statements from private companies, like accounting firms, banks, and credit unions.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

Manufacturers are implementing technological advancements to enhance automation processes every day. We call this latest wave of rapid development Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. While modernization presents numerous opportunities for growth and process enhancement, experts are increasingly aware of their need for heightened security in an increasingly insecure digital landscape. Manufacturing and other industries are taking a closer look at cloud-based ERP and unified systems to address vulnerabilities.

IIoT Network Security Threats And How To Protect Operations

Over the last 10 years, system control integrators and industrial automation thought-leaders have sought to address what they’ve identified as the chief IIoT network security concerns. Manufacturing operations in the US and abroad have suffered a significant increase in disruption due to cyber threats and the trend appears to be steadily increasing. In 2013, of 257 total cybersecurity incidents, critical manufacturing comprised 15% of all attacks. That number rose by 12% in 2015, and another 6% to 33% of all incidents in 2015.

A picture of digital devices on a table connected through a chain of paper clips.

Manufacturing And Other Industries Are Taking A Closer Look At Cloud-Based ERP And Unified Systems To Address Vulnerabilities.

The proliferation of cyber-attacks, as evidenced in Triton, WannaCry, and Petya events, have left the executive suite on edge. According to a recent global survey, conducted as part of the Kroll Annual Global Fraud & Risk Report 2017/2018, 86% of executives put cybersecurity among their top anxieties, which the report refers to as a “new normal”. Seven in 10 of those surveyed in the manufacturing sector reported such an incident, either in the form of information/data theft, fraud, loss, or attack, has taken place within their operations over the last year. The report paid particular attention to organizations’ workforces, which routinely emerge as either paramount security assets or threats. This only highlights the importance of adopting comprehensive approaches to securing resources, equipment, and operational capabilities.

Cyber Arms Race: Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification

Among the reported incidents over the last 12 months, virus/worm infestations and email phishing scams topped the charts, at 36% and 33% of total incidents respectively. Examples of modern cyber threats, along with how they can be avoided, have been acknowledged by system integrators and cybersecurity professionals in a recent release of training resources from WoMaster, a networking and computing solution provider. Among the topics addressed are accidental unauthenticated access, common attacks experienced by system integrators, and intentional access by hackers who utilize specific skills and tools rank among the most critical concerns. Among these tools and skills are IP Source Guard, Dynamic ARP Inspection, DHCP Snooping, Denial of Service, and Distributed Denial Of Service exploits.

a picture of a hooded individual working at a desktop PC.

The Proliferation Of Cyber-Attacks, As Evidenced In Triton, Wannacry, And Petya Events, Have Left The Executive Suite On Edge.

The series seeks to educate critical manufacturing operators on the nuances of modern cybersecurity, the importance of adopting strict cybersecurity procedures, and conforming to the standards outlined in Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification. Such standards-based certifications offer economically efficient means of maintaining best practices when it comes to cybersecurity along with tangible benefits to operators and peace of mind for anyone whose data is stored in targeted digital systems.

How Cloud-based ERP Systems Address Security Expenses For SMEs

Cloud-based ERP systems are being relied upon by enterprises of every size more and more as time goes on.  Cloud-based security is perhaps one of the biggest topics surrounding the efficacy of modern ERP systems.

A picture of coworkers in a boardroom around a table.

SMEs Should Take Advantage Of This Highly-Secured Environment To Allow For More Focused Efforts On Growth.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which may not have had much experience with cloud-based software, are typically the most skeptical. This is not to say that security risks don’t exist in the cloud. Security risks are always present. Handling security issues for cloud-based ERP is a challenging and complex process, not to mention costly. However, Cloud ERP providers, such as Epicor and NetSuite, spend hundreds of millions of dollars erecting formidable security apparatuses and maintaining and updating these safeguards regularly. That said, large, international manufacturers tend to keep their ERP systems on premises, despite ERP providers offering high-level security for their cloud solutions. Solutions that SMEs are generally unable to implement themselves. As a result, it is advisable SMEs to take advantage of this highly-secured environment to allow for more focused efforts on growth. This way, SMEs can more readily compete in a marketplace where they are still considered the underdog.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

The common misconception about automation is that in the long term it will cost more jobs than it creates. The fact of the matter is that this is simply not true. Automation, working alongside effective ERP systems, provides workforces the freedom to become more specialized and efficient. Automation works in tandem with ERP to conserve resources and take the mundane and repetitive tasks out of the picture.

As a result, the human component of businesses can take on more logical, critical thinking-oriented tasks. This adds value to the business by strengthening the quality of care customers receive and nurtures the satisfaction employees receive when they occupy more critical and appreciated roles in their careers.

Automation And Job Creation With ERP Systems

While the technology and machinery associated with automation and ERP systems assume easy roles it the workplace, the more agile and adaptable human is still required to run and maintain them.

A photograph of a specialized factory worker at an MES interface tied to ERP systems

A Specialized Worker Ensures That The Factory’s Automation Equipment Runs At Peak Performance.

Cotton mills are a prominent example of how technology replaced human labor in the textile industry. While unskilled labor, such as cotton picking was replaced by the cotton gin, the process of refining the picked cotton still required a human touch. Loom operators found their jobs replaced with automated machinery, but those machines too needed to be run and maintained by skilled labor. A loom couldn’t craft a shirt on its own but made the process infinitely more simple and the results were less cost prohibitive for the consumer. This translated into higher demand for cotton goods and more weavers were required to address the demand.

Over the past 150 years, the labor force has thrived alongside the implementation of automation technology, rather than having been hindered by it. The article Automation Technology and Anxiety, featured in Economist, focused on the example of cotton and detailed how the textile became easier by a factor of 50 to produce following the advent of automation technology in the industry. As a result, the cost of cotton plummeted, making goods derived from the textile easier to afford. This increased consumer demand led to a demand for more skilled labor. The article states, “In America during the 19th century the amount of coarse cloth a single weaver could produce in an hour increased by a factor of 50, and the amount of labor required per yard of cloth fell by 98%. This made cloth cheaper and increased demand for it, which in turn created more jobs for weavers: their numbers quadrupled between 1830 and 1900. In other words, technology gradually changed the nature of the weaver’s job, and the skills required to do it, rather than replacing it altogether.” The main takeaway from the passage should be that while the production of coarse cotton became radically easier to produce, job growth in the sector grew by 400 percent in a 70-year period as a result.

A more modern example can be found in Amazon’s headcount statistics. While the company’s fleet of robots has doubled over the last two years, the labor force has only increased over the same period.

Automation And ERP Systems

ERP Systems functions much in the same way, working alongside automated systems in manufacturing. In terms of data management, ERP systems take over repetitive processes and assume these otherwise mundane roles associated with enterprise data to reduce waste and free labor to take on more mission-critical tasks. These streamlined processes end up saving businesses substantial costs in the long term and facilitate growth that scales alongside the pace of Industry.

an image of food and beverage manufacturing controlled by erp systems

Automation Takes The Form Of Machine And Digital Processes.

Independent Labor Sources Develop

The independent workforce is another segment of global labor that shows increasing promise in the face of automation, with highly-skilled, highly-educated, and experienced professionals increasingly being sought after by companies that have adopted automation to a high degree. Software engineering, product management, and application development professionals are among the most sought-after independents. Automation plays together with the independent workforce as companies look to supplement their automated systems with independent workers to fulfill highly-specialized roles. Factories may not need the workers they once did thanks to robots and automated assembly, but the gaps in operations, maintenance, and planning leave more than enough room for a more specialized workforce to step in.

The Pains Of Transition

While it’s true the application of automation upsets work roles and employment demographics within the industries where they are applied, the real pains are felt in the short-term transition process. Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles, details what he sees as a necessary shift in paradigm between learning and working to maintain a qualified workforce as automation assumes what has been traditionally referred to as blue-collar jobs.

A photo of a CNC machine cutting metal shapes and forms where data is fed from ERP systems.

Modern Automation And Processes Require The Transition Of Workforces from Un-Skilled or Low-Skilled to Highly-skilled.

In an interview with the BBC last year, he offered his thoughts on how to address the need for more specialized labor in the face of automation, “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous. We currently have a dichotomy where those who work not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five-day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis.” In short, automation and robots, particularly collaborative robots, are increasingly filling a complementary role alongside workers, rather than one of replacement. The safest route, in terms of ensuring humans have a future in the workforce, is to scale skillsets alongside the technology that enables them the increased time to learn about most technical concepts and roles.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

A new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is blending automation and data exchange in ways that have never been possible before. The change has strengthened the concept of a “smart factory” that integrates cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing to create an increasingly cooperative relationship between man and machine throughout the manufacturing process.

An image of interconnecting beams of light superimposed over a city a night meant to symbolize the connections of devices in industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 Connects Cyber-physical Systems To Blend Automation And Data Exchange In Ways That Have Never Been Possible Before.

Some fantastic developments regarding the future of employment in this new landscape were revealed in a report released last week by the Association of Advancing Automation (A3). The document detailed how interconnectivity, automation and, more specifically, robots work to create increasingly valuable and necessary work roles. Keep reading to find out how the skills gap is being addressed at home and abroad and how worker wages figure into the equation.

Automation: Replacing The Mundane With The Mechatronic

As advancements in automation and robotics reach a new zenith, individuals and organizations can more effectively and affordably integrate these mechatronic marvels into their manufacturing processes. Able to complete simple tasks with a high degree of quality, these robots enable the current manufacturing workforce, and those entering the field, to approach more complex and demanding roles in the workplace. As a result, new approaches to training and education are required to prepare workers in how best to leverage these technologies and improve productivity. The same is true not just for manufacturing but an array of industries, including hospitality, transportation, and healthcare.

a picture of Disney robot character wall-e holding up a plant in one hand. industry Automation in industry 4.0 brings robots into manufacturing like never before.

The New Wave Of Automation Robotics Will Come Bearing Gifts.

New Careers For An Existing Workforce

The results of automation are far from the sound bites and headlines predicting an end to the job market as we know it. In a sense it’s true, but hardly from a negative standpoint. While automation does eat up the roles charged with repetitive and simple tasks, it enables the workforce to take on more complex responsibilities that lead to further productivity and profitability. A poignant example with a focus on banking was offered at last week’s A3 conference.

A picture of a technician with clipboard inspecting equipment. industry 4.0 presents opportunities for more specialized jobs and more sustainable job growth.

Automation And Robotics Will Give Rise To New Careers And Employment Opportunities.

With the arrival of the ATM, many people thought the role of the bank teller would go the way of the dodo. Long story short: it did not. The number of bank tellers fell by about a third. This presented banks with the opportunity to open more branches, approximately 40% more during that time, with the money saved by allowing machines take over the mundane cash-handling roles. More employees were then hired to fulfill more intellectually-demanding careers, such as relationship banking and credit and finance management. With these new roles came the need for more advanced training to adequately prepare the workforce to fill such positions.

Education, Certification, And Resurrection Of The Apprenticeship

As the number of opportunities in new careers grows because of increased automation, advances in educating and certifying a more talented workforce need to take place.

Based on data from the OECD, the National Bureau of Statistics of China and the University Grants Commission of India, Germany, India, and China have produced the greatest human investment in STEM fields over the last 15 years, with graduates in these sectors rising 170, 110, and 150 percent respectively. The US and South Korea have only increased their number of graduates by 40 and 20 percent in the same timeframe. Japan has foundered and seen a 10 percent reduction in STEM degrees. The top performers have been pushing STEM efforts beginning at the K-12 level, while additionally enhancing vocational training courses, and strengthening community college and university offerings that are attractive to employers in the manufacturing sector.

A picture of an engineer training an apprentice. industry 4.0 gives more room for advancement in manufacturing as menial tasks can be assumed by robots.

Employers Have Been Addressing The Talent Gap By Building From Within Through Apprenticeships And On-The-Job Training.

According to the Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, executives across the board agree that the biggest hurdle in advancing their operations in manufacturing is talent. It is estimated that 60% of critical positions in manufacturing remain unfilled. Beyond lack of qualified individuals, the time it takes to recruit, interview, and bring hires up to speed in the workplace can take as long as three months for engineering and research positions and two months for skilled production workers.

Employers have been addressing the hurdle by building from within through apprenticeships and on-the-job training. University isn’t appealing to or even practical for everybody, but with quality educational resources at their disposal, employees who find themselves with just a high-school degree can receive relevant, high-level training while at work or be compensated for continuing their education through external institutions. For example, Amazon has created its Career Choice program for hourly employees. Designed to give workers the opportunity to learn skills for in-demand jobs, the program pays for 95% of tuition costs towards robotics, computer science, engineering, and IT courses. Amazon even offers on-site classrooms to make the learning process as convenient as possible for participants. Programs like these make the benefits of automation clear: with labor freed and profits increased, companies can invest in their workforces to scale competently with growth.

Industry 4.0: Competition Breeds Opportunity For Workers

Beyond the opportunities for advancing education, compensation packages have steadily increased for talented workers in manufacturing. From back office to the shop floor, these employees can demand elite-level paychecks with benefits to boot.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, entry-level positions in manufacturing begin at $20 an hour with the total compensation for manufacturing jobs reaching an average of $81,000 including benefits, compared to the average of $63,000 for all nonfarm workers.

a picture of a man in a suit climbing a staircase into the sky. industry 4.0 will play a large part in how factory workers become more specialized and advance their careers.

Automation Has Paved The Way For More Rewarding Positions And Opportunities Beyond The Assembly Line.

Perhaps it has been true in the past that the world’s manufacturing personnel feared robots would take over the shop floor to the detriment of a human workforce. However, the data reveals they’ve only paved the way for more rewarding positions and opportunities beyond the assembly line.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

in Industry 4.0, Manufacturers and distributors have access to data on a scale that has never existed before. The two are leveraging the insights gleaned from that access to pursue new innovations in automation and systems that are reshaping the face of these industries. Pairing innovations like these with a robust ERP solution is the most effective way to ensure your business is prepared to address emerging technology trends that can reshape your industry overnight. Learn more about emerging technologies in manufacturing and Industry 4.0 to remain to be the competition, rather than simply competitive.

Industry 4.0

First, there was industry 1.0, the emergence of mechanization, as well as water-, steam-, and fossil fuel-powered systems. This was followed by mass production of goods, assembly line manufacturing, and electricity powering it all in Industry 2.0. With 3.0 came computers and automation using robotics. Today, we’ve reached the next milestone in revolutionizing Industry. Connecting established trends and emerging technologies between automation and data exchange in manufacturing is Industry 4.0. Also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, it is focused on bringing cyber-physical systems into the mainstream and placing them at the forefront of the manufacturing industry.

The first Industry 4.0 conference was held last week by Troy, Michigan-based Automation Alley (AA), a non-profit tech and manufacturing business association that connects industry, academia, and government to accelerate innovation in manufacturing. During the conference, a report outlining what AA and industry experts see as the next wave of industry tech to influence innovation emerged. In the report, a roadmap outlined several core technologies that professionals and researchers agree will direct the trajectory of manufacturing in the coming years.

Noting the biggest challenge of innovation on the manufacturing floor as supply-side participants being able to keep up, executive director of Automation Alley Tom Kelly remained optimistic, stating, “The world (of manufacturing) is changing so fast, we can’t assume any company really knows where it’s headed. But based on what’s possible, we hope to help them turn this into action instead of stagnation.” Industry 5.0 has already appeared on the horizon with technologies that are only now being conceptualized and brought into existence.


a picture of a welder at work welding part of a steel frame structure

New Manufacturing Technologies And The Next Industrial Revolution Are Here


The full report on AA’s research into industry 4.0 will be released in April 2018 for those who were unable to attend last week’s conference centered on deconstructing the “siloed thinking” of manufacturing in its current state and nurturing the “smart factory” megatrend of connecting machines, workers, and factory systems through the internet and cloud computing.

The Industrial Internet Of Things

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) utilized relevant information and completes essential tasks through smartphones, tablets, and other edge devices. Businesses can use this performance data in real-time to adapt and change their operations into a more streamlined process internally and externally for both short-term and long-term gains. This superior connectivity facilitates faster response times from all departments and brings with it improved agility for operations of every size.

An image displaying introducing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Emerging Technologies Are Ushering In A New Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0



As robots become smarter, cheaper, and more efficient in their roles on the factory floor, these entities will command a greater presence in shaping the manufacturing industry. Advances in robotics technology allow these machines to take on more complex traits, including machine learning, heightened dexterity, memory, and the ability to collaborate more effectively. As a result, robots will usher in a new set of standards that every manufacturer will need to adopt to remain relevant.

An image displaying how Robotics and root systems are a significant component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Advances In Robotics Means Smarter, More Agile, And More Efficient Robots.

Artificial Intelligence

Commonly the subject of doomsday scenario horror films, AI is nothing to discount as the stuff of science fiction gone wrong. The technology is already in our daily lives in the form of self-driving cars and industrial robotics. In manufacturing applications, the technology will become the new standard by which large sets of data are analyzed and predictive maintenance is undergone. In short, companies will have no choice but to “go digital” in order to survive.

An image a personal robot as part of Industry 4.0 technologies.

The Next Generation Of Artificial Intelligence Will Work side By Side With Humans On The Shop Floor.

Big Data

The means by which we capture data and store it is changing by the day. The even more complex and daunting tasks are how to sift through it and how to identify the relevant bits for different applications. New standards in search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy are emerging as a result. To keep up with the data, rather than being mired in it, manufacturers will need to adopt more robust technologies than traditional data processing software, which is where specialized ERP solutions give your business the critical edge it needs to succeed. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one more example of how automation technologies are increasing productivity and how we manage data in the manufacturing environment.

An image displaying how Big Data systems are a significant component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

With More Data To Store And Sift Through, It Will Become Increasingly Necessary For Powerful Tools To Assist In Making Sense Of It All.

The Cloud

In many circles, the cloud is considered a four-letter word. The technology is new and traditional operators across industries are skeptical of its intangible nature. It is not maintained locally and can’t be monitored, stored or secured using traditional methods. That being said, Cloud-based technology is how the companies of the future will operate as it allows in-house users and remote workforces to collaborate in real-time more effectively than with traditional data systems. The cloud approach is faster, improves manageability, and reduces maintenance.

An image displaying how cloud computing and cloud technology systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Data Stored Digitally Can Be Utilized And Amended At A Moment’s Notice.


As more and more operations move toward cloud-based solutions and rely more heavily on a robotic workforce, maintaining the security and integrity of these systems becomes a much larger issue. In fact, cybersecurity in the manufacturing sector is listed as the highest priority of the National Association of Manufacturers. Industrial control systems are among the most sensitive targets, which is the class of computers that help to manage the shop floor. As more manufacturers simultaneously build and integrate their systems through the industrial Internet of Things, more opportunities for threats emerge.

An image displaying how cyber security systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Cybersecurity Will be One Of The Most Crucial Concepts To Address As New Innovations Bring Change To The Manufacturing Industry.

Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing

An emerging advanced manufacturing technology, you might know Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing by the more common name of 3D printing. A process that used to take weeks to accomplish on a small scale, 3D printing can know construct large and complex structures, like housing, in less than a day. Organic compounds, custom plastics, and a host of other materials can be utilized in the process, harmonizing product and nature through innovation.

An image displaying how additive manufacturing and 3D printing systems are a big component of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Advanced Materials And Additive Manufacturing Utilizes 3D Printers For Projects Large And Small.

Modeling, Simulation, Visualization, And Immersion

Analyzing, manipulating, and leveraging data is essential when it comes to making decisions on the future of any business. With new forms of visualization, simulation, and interaction available at the press of a button, businesses can leverage the latest technology to more effectively review, report, and forecast using their data. 3D visualization, virtual reality, and immersion tools are just a few of the innovations available to a host of businesses that rely on massive amounts of data daily, including manufacturing, healthcare, sciences, finance, and energy. Beyond data, these innovations and associated tools help develop tech and lead teams to greater success rates with more thorough and effective preparation for mission-critical tasks.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.