Technology is changing the way we make things. From a facilitator of marginal efficiencies to a powerful enabler of disruptive innovation, Industry 4.0, with software at its core, is creating more flexible systems that allow manufacturers to pivot in a fast-changing world—unlocking data, creating new business models, and connecting us in new and exciting ways.
Our globally recognized Technology in Industry Report is back for 2022, focused on the pillars of Industry 4.0 that we see driving global manufacturing into the future: Software-first Transformation, Additive Manufacturing, and Distributed Manufacturing.
With insights from our growing manufacturing and technology ecosystem, the 2022 Report is a comprehensive, collaborative effort—filled with emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, expert interviews, and cases studies from industry leaders—that will arm you with all the knowledge you need to help guide your business into the future.
Regardless of the industry in context, the opportunities presented by software-driven business models are immense. With a software-first mindset, companies can gain unprecedented agility to shift during technological disruptions and can keep up with or stay ahead of rapidly changing customer demands and market trends. It’s about taking a leap from a hardware-first approach to a software-first mindset.
“Take for example how Uber entered the market. It was a very traditional market that they were working with [transportation], but you think about how you solve that problem with software,” says Heiko Wenczel, Head of Detroit Lab at Epic Games, developer of 3D computer graphics game engine Unreal Engine. Wenczel is one of several industry experts featured for the 2022 Report. “It’s about how you reach a massive amount of people in a very short time. That’s the way you can possibly disrupt the market. It’s a change in philosophy.”
These software innovations, coupled with machine and material improvements, are creating enormous opportunities for manufacturers to adopt 3D printing practices. This is something we witnessed just last month when GM 3D print 60,000 parts to keep Tahoe deliveries on time—the first time we've seen additive manufacturing on such an automotive scale. 3D printing is making its impact known across all industries, as manufacturers look to more rapid, customizable, and agile solutions to combat supply chain disruptions—and all companies should be paying attention. With its unparalleled ability to increase speed-to-market, lower costs, reduce waste, and customize specialty parts, 3D printing will forever change the way we make products and will accelerate the circular economy, linking material, design, and production in a continuous and sustainable loop.
As Industry 4.0 transforms hardware companies into software companies, businesses will have greater flexibility to invest in learning while mitigating the ever-increasing burden of owning capital equipment. With software as the backbone, distributed and localized manufacturing will give companies added flexibility and agility and enable them to send 3D digital design files across secure networks to entire ecosystems of manufacturers.
For an example of the distributed manufacturing model in action, look no further than Automation Alley’s Project DIAMOnD, that recently linked 300 Macomb and Oakland County manufacturers to make tourniquet parts to save lives in Ukraine.
Change takes courage
These three major manufacturing trends highlighted in this year’s Technology in Industry Report will be critical to how manufacturers operate in the future. But Industry 4.0 technologies are not just digital tools that get added to the line as we know it—they fundamentally change the line. Today’s manufacturers must have the courage to make this transition. It is not only in their best interest to do so, but will be paramount to their survival and future success. This is not a transformation for the process you know, but for a new process that you will have to learn.
Knowledge is power
Become a digital subscriber to Automation Alley for full access to the 2022 Technology in Industry Report. View Chapter 1: Software Transformation: The Heart of Industry 4.0 here. And stay plugged in for Chapter 2 on Additive Manufacturing launching in September, and Chapter 3 on Distributed Manufacturing launching in November.