You’ve seen the term being used everywhere lately, from advertisements to articles, brochures and billboards. But what are we talking about? And more importantly, what does it mean for you, and your business? Let’s take a step back, and work our way to the answer.
Through nearly all of human history, work has been powered by human force. People did things by hand. Sure, they had tools, but elbow grease was the force that made them work.
Then, starting in the 18 century, the industrial revolution took place - the first one, that is. Steam power. Machines began to take over, replacing hand tools and muscle because the pressure of steam could exponentially produce more power than any bicep.
Hello, Industry 1.0.
Now jump forward a hundred years or so, and something shocking happened. Literally. The advent of readily available electrical power began to replace steam as the go-to driver of mechanical devices. Electricity, coupled with advancements in assembly and production lines, ushered the developing world into its second Industrial Revolution.
That was Industry 2.0.
In the 1950s, another revolution began taking shape. This time (and much like many cabinet shops), it started in someone’s garage. Computers and software led the way for Industry 3.0, which we know as the Digital Revolution. For the woodworking industry, this was a monumental shift. CNC machinery, controlled by software, allowed the seeds of automation to grow and thrive.
Today, we are emerging from Industry 3.0 and sit upon the cusp of something new.
So, what does Industry 4.0 look like? Lasers and robots? Well, kind of. But what it really refers to is a number of technologies coming together, quite literally.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (and we are barely scratching its surface) builds on the digital revolution, but will use networks, the Internet, smarter software, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous machines (there are your robots) to connect all of these technologies together and drive a new wave of automation. This is sometimes referred to as Smart Factories. We already have a lot of these elements in place – automated material handling, or Internet connected devices, for example. But no longer are our machines and systems simply receiving data. They are also producing data.
The challenge, and also the immense opportunity, is to be able to take all those data points and connect them together in a system that intelligently makes decisions that improve efficiencies.