You should want to be. Advanced net-
working, software, and computing tech-
nologies are now table stakes in the global
game of manufacturing. If you want to
play, you’ve got to be able to pay—and not
just in financial terms.
Setting up and running M4.0-enabled
factories and plants will take many things:
vision, strategy, courage, stamina, and, yes,
the money to get a seat at the table. But can
all manufacturers, large and small, pull together the resources they need to get that
M4.0 may be an era of technology-in-
spired equal opportunity, but not all man-
ufacturers are created equal. Small- and
medium-size manufacturers that lack the
financial wherewithal as well as the nec-
essary skill sets may be at a distinct dis-
advantage compared with large, global
manufacturers such as GE when it comes
to taking advantage of M4.0.
But the promise of M4.0 can’t just be for
the well-heeled few. For the revolution to truly
succeed, for a new wave of industrial progress
to really take hold, all must be able to participate in what M4.0 has to offer. As Metcalfe’s
Law holds, the power of the network depends
upon the number of nodes it has. And so every seat at the M4.0 table needs to be filled.
There is hope. Technology costs will decline. Small manufacturers will get better
educated and acquire the talent they need.
Industry consortia will offer a path. The
big may even help the small. But the point
is we all need to work together to make
Have a seat? – David R. Brousell
E ARE ON THE BRINK OF A NEW ERA IN MANUFACturing. We call it Manufacturing 4.0. The number is meant to indicate a fourth industrial revolution, one characterized by pervasive connectivity, digitized processes, and huge volumes of data
from every corner of the enterprise. As GE chief Jeff Immelt has
rightly, if somewhat obviously, said “Industrial companies are in the information business—whether they want to be or not.”
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