Industry 4.0 is here to stay. It is the benchmark and milestone for forward-thinking manufacturers. Industry 4.0 is comprised of several developing technologies. Some have been evolving for decades, while others were unheard of five years ago. Society loves new toys and tech, clamoring to own, exploit, and profit from it. Manufacturers are usually conservative in making changes to their shop floors. Ask any plant manager over forty-five; he’ll tell you it’s safer to buy a new machine than to embrace new technologies. A machine is a hard asset with a reliable output. It can be added to a value stream to balance the need for more throughput. Software is a soft acquisition. Unless you were raised on computers and tech, there is a pushback in such adoption. However, data and information are the future. Any manufacturer who does not get on the bandwagon will ultimately lose. The legacy of companies like the Columbus Buggy Company (1875) reminds us of the ever-evolving business and technology landscape. Adaptation and innovation remain crucial for survival, even when faced with changing times and modes of transportation.

Industry 4.0, IIoT, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics are today’s rallying points for manufacturers to meet the worldwide paradigm shift.

The growth figures for Industry 4.0 in 2023 based on various sources:

Considering these projections, the total growth for Industry 4.0 in 2023 varies across different reports, but it consistently reflects substantial expansion. The actual figures may differ due to real-world dynamics, but the overall trend indicates robust growth.

However, Industry 4.0 consists of several converging and competing technologies. It encompasses advances in MES material tracking, MOMs machine operations management, ERP extensions, RFID asset tracking, Automated measurement and QC technologies, vision systems, digital twins, AI, and more. Several of these fields welcome technological advancements to move them into a proper 21st-century solution. In contrast, a few of the technology fields are immature and will cost early adopters considerable money and time.

IIoT alone will drive a considerable portion of the Industry 4.0 market.

Industry 4.0 (IIoT) Trends and Predictions for 2023:

  1. Greater Adoption Among Manufacturers:

AI and machine learning (though most individuals have no real clue what it means) may be massively exploding onto the internet with wild claims and even more massive predictions in potential market share; however, when focused on manufacturing, the trend is much more conservative.

The machine learning (ML) market, specifically within the context of manufacturing, provides the following relevant figures:

  1. Global Machine Learning Market in Manufacturing (2023):
  2. Applied AI and Industrializing Machine Learning:

The ML market within manufacturing is poised for substantial growth, with applied AI and industrialized machine learning leading the way. Organizations should harness these technologies to enhance their operations and stay competitive in the evolving landscape.

As the workforce for manufacturing continues to shrink, manufacturers are investigating several robotic technologies to offset the reliance on humans. The repetitiveness of many of the jobs makes it ideal for robotics. Interestingly, even though robotics can be very attractive, the considerable CapEx investment can make the ROI period hard to swallow. Therefore manufacturers are weighing the cost/benefit of robotic adoption.

The industrial robotics market is poised for significant growth in the coming years. Here are some predictions based on various sources:

  1. Statista Market Forecast anticipates that the Industrial Robotics market will witness a substantial increase in revenue, reaching a staggering US$9.31 billion in 2024. Among the different sectors within the market, the Electric/electronic industry robotics segment is projected to dominate, with a market volume of US$2.62 billion in the same year1.
  2. According to the 2023 World Robotics Report, robot installations are expected to reach nearly 600,000 installs in 2024. This surpasses an important benchmark, signaling that robotics will continue to experience ongoing growth despite economic challenges2.
  3. While the economy has posed challenges for many businesses, including the tech sector, the NASDAQ predicts a slow start for robotics in the beginning of 2024 due to economic challenges and high interest rates. However, this slower start provides an opportunity for robotics companies to evaluate their go-to-market strategies and ensure they’re positioned correctly. As interest rates fluctuate, mapping out approaches regarding funding and resource allocation becomes crucial2.
  4. Generative AI has emerged as a transformative force within robotics. Innovations like GPT-4 have redefined robot data, enabling workers to utilize AI tools effectively. The wider robotics industry has made significant progress with AI, from turning robots into tour guides to teaching them intricate tasks. This trend is likely to continue, enhancing the capabilities of industrial robots2.

The industrial robotics market is expected to grow, driven by technological advancements, sector-specific applications, and ongoing demand for automation and efficiency. In light of the overall technology growth, it really plays a small role for such a critical technology.

If we had a crystal ball, we could look ahead to see the winners and the losers in the adoption race. The first barcode was conceived by Joe Woodland, who drew it in the sand while sitting on Miami Beach in 1949. It took industries 25 years to finally see a real-use for them when on June 26, 1974, at Troy’s Marsh Supermarket in Ohio. The first item marked with the Universal Product Code (UPC) was scanned using a scanner developed by National Cash Register.

In 1948, Swedish scientist and inventor Harry Stockman delved into the concept of RFID in his paper titled “Communication by Means of Reflected Power.” At that time, radio technology was still in development, and it would take a few more decades for RFID to become practically viable, becoming an alternative to scanning by the 21st century, 50 years later.

George Devol, in 1954, patented the first industrial robot capable of transferring objects within a distance of 12 feet. The actual adoption of robotics is only now happening 60+ years later.

Should we expect a multi-decade adoption of the emerging technologies that make up Industry 4.0, or will the global market driving the paradigm shift today provide the motivation for rapid adoption, such as when automobiles replaced horses and carriages? We have history to tell the story. The telephone, invented in 1876, took until the 1960s for 80% of U.S. households to have landlines. In contrast, newer technologies show rapid adoption. Microwavescell phonessmartphones, and tablets have all seen fast-rising adoption rates. Tablet computers went from nearly 0% to 50% adoption in just about five years.

What factors are driving technology adoption by manufacturers?

  • Globalized markets
  • Competition
  • Strained supply chains
  • Fluctuating demand
  • Shrinking workforces
  • Higher operating costs
  • Regulations and governance requirements
  • Enterprise Visibility
  • Rapidly changing markets

All demand nimble, responsive, adaptable manufacturers. This can only be achieved by adopting “integrating technologies” found in Industry 4.0. The successful adoption of Industry 4.0 will require a very specific commitment from the manufacturer. Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

“The great differentiator in business is when an organization steps out and creates value from something never tried before.” — Kerry Baskins, CEO, Peak Toolworks.