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Macomb Next FAQ

Our question and answer section will answer any questions you might have about Industry 4.0


It is a term coined by the German government to cover what it saw in 2011 as a coming revolution in manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is a name given to explain the current trend of digital data exchange, advanced automation and robotics independently operated through cyber-physical systems (CPS) in industrial technologies.

The key differences are incorporated into the design principles of each technological tool used in adopting the technology such as inter-operability, real-time digital data transfer and status, decentralization, connectivity, autonomous and virtualization.

Through the adoption of I4.0 smart technologies, many tedious and repetitive positions will be replaced by automated processes that will improve quality and output. This should create more skilled and higher-paying positions to support the maintenance and programming of automated hardware.

ROI will depend on how comprehensively we analyze the benefits of adopting the new technologies in the company. The end goal of adopting the new concepts is to improve the company's top- and bottom-line performance indicators such as sales and profitability. Therefore, we must maximize the potential of the new technology to the fullest such as by applying COBOT. For example, COBOT can replace not just one person but can replace three people if you run three shifts. COBOTS assist workers to help where needed especially during low unemployment and lack of employees available to grow a business.All these factors must be quantified and every single saving on time and labor hours will translate into direct cost savings.

It’s not a question of whether we are ready or not but whether we want to be on the same boat or left behind by those who lead. Those who start last could have died first in this transformation. Can we answer tomorrow's question today? If the answer is no, then it is time to change toward the new journey of Industry 4.0.

The first step is to equip yourself and your team with knowledge so that you can develop your approach and strategy. Without proper knowledge and training, you won’t be developing the best strategy to deploy the new concepts. It’s like introducing a new product that needs a step-by-step systematic approach.

The pillars whether it’s the Internet of things, Big data analytics, Cloud, Augmented reality, etc. are simply the enablers of the new technological tools for you to adapt and adopt towards achieving your business goals and objectives. Even when we apply simple Internet of things sensors to the machine to monitor the temperature, it must be able to perform three basic functions on top of complying to the design principles; measure, analyze and act (MAA). Without these three functions, it means nothing. Simple application of MAA can also be applied to monitor through the tower light of each machine so that we can know all the machine status, in real-time, analyze it and take necessary action to correct it between red, yellow and green status.

There are many challenges and obstacles but most important is the employee's mindset and attitudes towards change. Change is the only constant in business to be successful. The mindset will include everyone in the organization at all levels. Other challenges include up-skilling and re-skilling employees, financial strategy, budgeting, understanding the design concepts, selecting the best solutions and service providers. On top of the challenges dealing with the people change process, there are some other challenges. They include:

Security: Perhaps the most challenging aspect of implementing the Industry 4.0 approach is the cybersecurity risk since everything is connected through an online network. Cyber theft must also be taken into consideration. In this case, the problem is not individual, but can, and probably will, cost producers money and might even hurt their reputation. Therefore, security research is crucial.

Capital: Such transformation will require a huge investment in a new technology. The decision to make such a transformation will have to be on CEO level. Even then, the risks must be calculated and taken seriously. In addition, such a transformation will require huge capital, which alienates smaller businesses and might cost them their market share in the future.

Employment: While it remains early to speculate on employment conditions with the adoption of Industry 4.0 globally, it is safe to say that workers will need to acquire different or an all-new set of skills. This may help employment rates go up, but it will also alienate a big sector of workers. The sector of workers whose work is perhaps repetitive will face a challenge in keeping up with the industry. Different forms of education must be introduced, but it still doesn’t solve the problem for the elder portion of workers. This is an issue that might take longer to solve.

Privacy: This is not only the customer’s concern, but also the producers. In such an interconnected industry, producers need to collect and analyze data. To the customer, this might look like a threat to his privacy. This is not only exclusive to consumers. Small or large companies that haven’t shared their data in the past will have to work their way to a more transparent environment. Bridging the gap between the consumer and the producer will be a huge challenge for both parties.

Todd Seibert

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Todd Seibert

Senior Economic Developer