"The industrial revolution 4.0 is here. Are you ready?"
With that remark, Google's Renee Niemi opened Promat 2015 last month with a wake-up call to technological laggards in the manufacturing world.
"We are experiencing a new revolution in manufacturing," said the director of Android and Chrome global business at Google at Work.
"Just like the first three revolutions -- power, efficiency and information -- you have a choice: You can lead or you can follow," she explained. "Those who lead will get ahead; those who follow may or may not make it."
This latest revolution, she said, moves us out of the stagnant data storage legacy of the information age to a digital age that combines massive changes around our computing ability, our access to the Internet, and access to and proliferation of mobile devices.
"Our lives are already immersed in mobile digital technologies," she explained. "It's our gateway to the cloud, to the Internet, to our friends and colleagues. They allow us to stay connected to information and allow us to stay connected to the decisions we make at work."
Those advantages are no different in manufacturing.
You have a choice: You can lead or you can follow... Those who lead will get ahead; those who follow may or may not make it."
"If you move to the fourth industrial revolution, you move your process digital, all of a sudden a whole new world of possibilities opens up," she said. "CEOs are taking notice."
But that doesn't mean the transition will be easy.
Ingredients for Industry 4.0
"If we follow the theme of revolution," Niemi said, "we know that most revolutions have a little bit of war associated with them." It's no different here.
To help fight the battle, Niemi highlighted three key technologies of Industry 4.0 that manufacturers can employ to jump start their own digital revolution.
"Cloud is the most important ingredient of the digital revolution," she explained.
Technology is constantly evolving, constantly changing, constantly getting better and faster. By outsourcing the maintenance and upgrades of that technology to experts, it allows your people to focus more on your core business, she explained.
"It takes the burden off of you and puts in on them."
To Niemi, mobile technologies serve two power roles in this digital revolution.
First, of course, when deployed on the factory floor they enable powerful capabilities like real-time feedback on process information, real-time, on-floor training, and access to the data you need to make decisions "anywhere, anytime."
Equally important, however, is the fact that customers are also using mobile.
"You need to leverage the fact that customers have access to information, too," Niemi explained. "How can you learn more about them and build that knowledge back into your supply chain and into your plant?"
3. Apps & App-Building Platforms
"With the cloud, a new generation of apps has been launched," Niemi explained. "In a nutshell, it allows you to develop quick apps on any platform with a single language… What used to take months and years can now be done in days and weeks."
For manufacturers, this means gaining the ability to quickly and easily tap into the data of their systems, creating new windows into process information and industrial big data to drive efficiency and progress.
"These are your ingredients for this awesome cake we're building called Industry Revolution 4.0," Niemi said. "A lot of it may sound intimidating, and it's not going to be easy. But the reality is, you can't afford to wait."