By now, you’ve probably heard of the term Industry 4.0 and the many manufacturing software solutions aligned with it. Industry 4.0 often comes with buzzword baggage—agile, digital transformation, automation, CX. We’ll unpack some of what Industry 4.0 means and how your manufacturing company may already be in the midst of this exciting time.
What Is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is a catch-all term referring to how “industry” —mainly manufacturing—is changing in relation to technology. Throughout every industry, new technologies are reshaping how we work and think about work. Something as simple as the fast-food industry has been reshaped by app technology which now allows hungry diners to tap a button on their smartphones to order a pizza for delivery. This simple analogy belies an extensive and often complex interplay among technology, consumer needs, and industries.
At the forefront of Industry 4.0 is manufacturing software solutions. Many of these solutions—ERP, CRM, AI, and chatbots—have been with us for many years. It is the application and use of such technologies to solve key industry challenges that truly make this “4.0,” or the fourth industrial revolution.
Just as technologies spurred on each preceding industrial revolution, so too will the new manufacturing software solution inspire the fourth revolution. The cotton gin, the automated weaving loom, Ford’s invention of the auto assembly line, and the Japanese Kanban concept in the 1970s all became the impetus for major changes not just in their respective industries, but throughout all manufacturing industries. Industry 4.0 and manufacturing software solutions are similar in that technologies shaping manufacturing today are borrowed from other industries.
Agile Approach to Manufacturing
Agile began as a software development approach that quickly inspired other industries to use its efficient and time-saving methods. The agile approach transitions from a waterfall project management system, in which teams work to produce the end product and then show it to the final stakeholder, to one in which smaller increments are shown along the way for correction and feedback. As with the software industry, this approach has changed how manufacturers view production. Instead of rolling out finished goods without input, smaller increments can be produced, refined, and tweaked to ensure the final product meets order requirements. This business agility has enabled many manufacturers to improve product quality and customer satisfaction.
Manufacturing Software Solutions
Manufacturing software solutions aligned with Industry 4.0 are critical to provide manufacturers with the competitive edge they need in the global economy. Some key software advances that forward-thinking manufactures should consider include:
- Enterprise resource planning, or ERP systems, which integrated accounting, finance, and operations data into one comprehensive platform
- Business intelligence (BI) which translates complex data and data patterns into reports, and its analogous software, data visualization, which creates charts and graphs from complex data, making it easier to understand
- Warehouse management systems (WMS) which integrate with ERP systems and provide up to the minute data on stock status and more
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps improve the workflow among manufactures, customers, distributors, and partners, and automates many critical interactions among the stakeholders
- Ecommerce platforms and customer portals, which enable customers to engage with manufacturers online and check order status, reorders, returns, and more
Manufacturing software solutions may be used independently or in conjunction with one another to achieve the desired result. For example, integrating an ERP with CRM can create efficiencies along the sales and customer experience (CX) continuum that solve a particular challenge for one manufacturer, while a distribution center owner may wish to integrate their ERP with WMS and BI for a better look at stock status and order fulfillment.
Whatever you may think of Industry 4.0, there’s no doubt we live in exciting times. The unveiling of super chat tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard point to a future where technology continues to shape interactions and business thinking in ways previously unheard of.
Emerald TC provides software and consulting. We can help you choose the right ERP system for your needs. Contact us or call 678-456-6919 for more information.