Fourth industrial revolution gathering momentum says report

Half of manufacturers in survey have already achieved significant gains from instituting Industry 4.0 initiatives

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

According to a new survey, 49% of manufacturers are already achieving ‘major successes’ as a result of instituting Industry 4.0 practices. On top of this, 87% are excited about the transformative power of Industry 4.0 over the next decade.

The survey from Molex of 216 manufacturing decision-makers found 51% of the surveyed have made Industry 4.0 a corporate priority and gained executive sponsorship while 21% are still in the investment stage.

The findings reflect steady progress in the development of Industry 4.0 initiatives across the industrial automation ecosystem, including smart automation, connectivity and analytics that add efficiency and intelligence throughout the manufacturing lifecycle.

The changes are also coming quickly - more than half of the respondents expect to meet their Industry 4.0 goals within two years, while a third believe it will take three-to-five years to reach that milestone.

According to the survey, the most impactful business outcomes encompass the ability to build better products (69%), reduce overall manufacturing costs (58%), increase revenues (53%), offer products at lower prices (35%) and decrease time-to-market of new solutions (35%). For machine builders, robot manufacturers and systems integrators, the opportunity to expand factory-floor automation and intelligence is expected to drive significant customer gains.

The most anticipated customer benefit is the increased efficiency of robots, machines, and other manufacturing assets (58%). However, greater flexibility on manufacturing lines and the use of advanced analytics or Digital Twins to self-optimise operations were also highly anticipated by half of the respondents.

Manufacturers expect that virtual design and simulation of new production facilities before making capital expenditures (42%) will be another major advantage, as will elevated labour productivity (41%), and access to real-time data across facilities (26%).

Among the capabilities considered most beneficial to their organizations' Industry 4.0 efforts, respondents cited machines embedded with ample intelligence to control their own processes while interacting externally (53%), remote access to all production lines and machines (47%) and versatile connectivity solutions that include Internet (40%).

Over half (58%) also say that digital transformation investments have accelerated Industry 4.0 efforts.

Of those surveyed, 44% of those polled find organisational and cultural adoption barriers hardest to overcome. However, stakeholders are driving advancements in robotics, complex machines and device or control systems. Nearly half of those polled identified problems with leadership that doesn't advocate for change, making it more difficult to reap full value from investments. Other cultural issues impeding success include problems finding staff with data and analytics skills (35%) and organisational structures that limit information and systems sharing (32%).

Ultimately, 85% of the survey participants were in strong agreement that a change in how leadership thinks is critical to empowering Industry 4.0 initiatives to thrive.

"It's gratifying to see widespread Industry 4.0 progress, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is pivotal to fulfilling the promises of digital manufacturing," said John Newkirk, VP and general manager, Industrial Solutions, Molex. "Ensuring success requires a pragmatic approach, organizational alignment and secure connectivity solutions that drive operational efficiency while boosting manufacturing flexibility and reducing costs."

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