Technologies such as the internet of things, the industrial internet of things and artificial intelligence are changing the way manufacturers operateThis article was first published in the Autumn 2017 issue of The Record Magazine.

There is little doubt in my mind that Industry 4.0 can create new business models. All over the world, entrepreneurs are discovering ingenious ways to apply Industry 4.0 technologies to create new products and services. These entrepreneurs are working inside some very large corporations, while some are just starting out.

BMW makes the Mini. When you can, take a look at the number of configurations we as consumers can order – from shape to stripes to wing mirrors. It’s virtually individualised production. Marketing, engineering and production have worked together to form a seamless Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing process – something unthinkable just 20 or even 10 years ago. The enabler is the internet of things (IoT) and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Those folks at BMW are entrepreneurs.

On the other side of the spectrum are start-ups. Entrepreneurs who think ‘hmmm, let’s make a better widget’. New materials, such as graphene, means they may just be the first to market with ultra-thin and ultra-strong products.

Yet our experience so far is that it’s the traditional manufacturers like BMW who are making the best use of new materials and new manufacturing processes. By working side-by-side with research and industry organisations and closing in on a tight supply chain, BMW are reaping massive rewards from Industry 4.0.

However, as I mentioned in my last article for The Record, there is an area which is spinning off some small but important Industry 4.0 innovations – artificial intelligence.

Bennit, a small US start-up backed by some of the smartest people in the industry, is making waves. Its software learns by watching and following people. People make decisions in a manufacturing environment daily. When those decisions are followed and turned into results via more and better production, then it learns. It begins to understand what works and what does not. Curiously it is does need to know why, just what works and what does not.

This ability to skip the engineer’s intense curiosity to figure out the ‘why’ means it can be applied quickly with immediate results. The whole idea of not understanding the ‘why’ may seem counterintuitive, but that is exactly why corporate or start-up entrepreneurs are making it work for them. It will work for a simple reason – it delivers a return on investment. Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing may seem a technical game, but as always, it’s actually about the money.

The Manufacturing Operation Management Institute ( runs events for manufacturers to provide a platform to discuss actions which can be taken today

Singapore ATS Applied Tech Systems
24 – 25 Oct
Melbourne, AU Hosted at Australian Institute of Management
29 – 30 Nov

Mike James, ATS
by Mike James
Chair Board of Directors of ATS Global B.V.

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