Industry 4.0: the Factory of the Future

Lionel Grealou Innovation Outsourcing PLM 2 minutes

The question is: “what will manufacturing processes of the future look like, and what will be their defining features?

There is an increasing demand for products that match customer expectations precisely and more closely, in a timely and accurate manner, and at the best cost and value for money possible in a global economy competitive context.

The third industry revolution brought rapid sequenced product manufacturing on a production line based on electronics and ICT automation.

Many are already talking about the fourth industrial (r)evolution which focuses on new embedded technology, real time collaboration, mobility, on-the-fly engineering analytics, intelligence, connectivity (internet of things, cloud-based solution) and visualization to create a seamless and agile manufacturing ecosystem. New knowledge and workers will be required – people with learning agility, who are able to adapt quickly, who are new technology savvy, who can interact with global customer-supplier communities.

Industry 4.0 is to bring decoupled, fully flexible and highly integrated manufacturing based on cyber-physical production systems:

  • Smart factories: more automation, better control and optimization of processes – using embedded software and intelligent devices in products and factory infrastructure.
  • Virtual factories: holistic and combined value creation by integrating products and services across the extended enterprise with enhanced supplier chain productivity – using software to interconnect and manage distributed factory assets.
  • Digital factories: product ‘visualization’ before it is produced with better design productivity – using software for digital representation, test and simulation or product and processes prior to their manufacturing or use.

The big idea is that it will allow companies to involve their customers more closely in the production process and to react faster on changing market requirements. Also, the ideal factory envisages a self-controlling (and perhaps self-learning) production process, in which production reacts autonomously to changes or faults and takes appropriate measures. This will bring systems engineering, production IT, and business systems to a new level – leveraging business benefits from an increasingly integrated Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Historically, PLM has been about breaking the silos between Engineering, Manufacturing, Sales and Marketing, Service and Support. Industry 4.0 will bring PLM to an extra level of integration and complexity. It will take time as it will require:

  • New collaboration networks that are more intuitive and flexible.
  • Rapidly scalable solutions which are based on user-centric and on-demandcollaboration, instead of document-centric data exchanges
  • Openness and IP management.
  • Replacement of all legacy solutions which are not integrated by new technology solutions that embrace consumer IT innovations, technologies and cross-industry andcross-organizational learning (open innovation).

Industry 4.0 is a vision of the future which is starting to take shape in some industries… First, PLM needs to close the gap on basic product development and manufacturing engineering requirements, such as: engineering and manufacturing standards, PLM to PLM (or intra-PLM ecosystem) integration, BOM synchronization, part revision, CAD to CAE / SLM, mobility, business intelligence, PLM-ERP integration, compliance, systems engineering, customer focus, extended enterprise collaboration, etc.

The expectation is that Industry 4.0 will lead to new business models and value propositions based on less waste and energy use, increased efficiency, fast turnaround, better quality, less rework, faster time-to-market, high value products, new kind of jobs, supplier chain transparency, IP security, reduced carbon footprint.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 3 February 2015.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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