Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution!

4th_industrial_revolutionManufacturing processes have certainly matured significantly since the early days of steam engines, now referred to as the first industrial revolution. Next came the days of Henry Ford’s assembly line, and production of the Model T at volumes never thought possible – representing the second industrial revolution. In the 1970s, computers revolutionized the workplace by performing calculations and tracking measurements and processes that were simply unimaginable 100 years ago.  Clearly, computers and technology have continued to transform production processes.

Today, there is something spectacular that is starting to take hold. So, of course, there is now a race to come up with “the” name to call it. Some have called it a world where we will live with an “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” Others consider the term “smart devices” to really capture the essence of the transformation. In Europe, the phrase “Industry 4.0” is catching on. Regardless of what you call it, this is clearly a concept that is here to stay, having been already introduced on this blog in May of last year, with this post on the Industrial Internet. Personally, I believe the best description is to simply call it the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is a giant leap for manufacturing innovation, characterized by “smart devices” that can actually take control of machines on the shop floor by communicating autonomously “device-to-device” to manage manufacturing operations and distribution.

This type of scenario could create a significant level of manufacturing agility that would make it possible to connect customer needs with a company’s ability to deliver a product – virtually on demand.  Consumers can now influence design and control production. Manufacturers are now better able to adapt quickly to specific consumer demands.  Add in new technology that creates an unprecedented feedback loop between companies and their customers in which products could actually be designed – or highly influenced – by the end-user, and you have the makings for a revolution in how products are designed and produced.

This 4th industrial revolution has already begun to transform products, consumer expectations and how companies manage production in this environment.  Dassault Systèmes recently published and shared a slideshow highlighting 10 interesting trends on how this movement is developing, how it will impact our world, and where it’s going in the years ahead. Below is a summary of the predictions, including some items that are already a reality, but will only continue to proliferate into a larger part of our lives – see the complete presentation here: “Enter into the 4th Industrial Revolution.”


  1. The consumer experience – Insights into consumer tastes, fueled by big data, will drive new product introductions that give customers a level of influence never seen before.
  2. Mass customization – Let’s just say you can now have your car in any color, including black, if you so desire.
  3. Glocalization – The phrase “Think Global, Act Local” has never carried more weight than it does today.
  4. Internet of Things – ABI Research estimates that by 2020, 30 billion devices – from a jet liner to a sewing needle – will be connected to the internet.
  5. Remote control – Mobility today makes it possible for plant managers to monitor and manage production from a mobile device.
  6. 3D printing – Production technology capable of making “on demand” products will revolutionize manufacturing.
  7. Smart objects – Soon we’ll see smart devices driving smart enterprises – each that can communicate directly with users to create an experience never before seen.
  8. Re-shoring manufacturing – We are already seeing a new decision model emerge whereby the decision to offshore must now include new factors.
  9. Regulation compliance – With global production comes the need for global compliance; greater collaboration and sharing of data will be needed to help streamline a potentially disruptive impediment to continued global production expansion.
  10. Sustainability is everywhere – More efficient processes and responsiveness will not only improve product demand and time-to-market, but will also drive new levels of sustainability by reducing waste during the production process and throughout the supply chain.


I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into what the fourth industrial revolution might have in store for us. We’ll continue to explore what the impact might be of this force, so look out for future posts on how this revolution might specifically impact manufacturing operations management processes.


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