Smart Manufacturing changes the agenda for manufacturing companies

In Europe, the headline is Industry 4.0 and in the United States the concept has been baptized Smart Manufacturing.

CEO’s and production managers need to keep a very close eye on the three concepts, which together indicate that the next revolution in manufacturing is well underway.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT)
  2. 3D printing
  3. Intelligent robotized automation systems

Within just a few years, the traditional production methods and business processes will change radically. The goal is to increase value added through the establishment of intelligent factories characterized by flexibility, efficient use of resources and focus on ergonomics.

Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing refers to the fourth big wave in manufacturing where products and production systems are linked together via the “Internet of Things” (IoT). They are “cyber-physical” meaning they exist as both virtual models and physical apparatus. In the cyber-physical world where the virtual and the physical world are seamlessly tied together, the product itself becomes an active part of the production process.

Machines and materials with integrated sensors and radio tags (RFID tags) ties all kinds of production equipment together and makes machines, systems and products able to communicate with each other. This applies to both machines, products and transportation. With cyber-physical production, it becomes possible to produce/ distribute optimally even across the traditional barriers between individual companies. The result is increased flexibility and shorter time-to-market.

To ride the wave succesfully, the US based website recommends that decision makers in 2016 should focus their investments on a number of core technologies.

Designing for Internet of Things (IoT)


Investments in IoT are still showing quite a slow growth rate despite obvious opportunities for cost savings and gains in efficiency. In connection with the measurement of machine performance via IoT, a study from McKinsey Global Institute, has demonstrated 25 percent cost savings in the maintenance of machinery and 50 percent reduction of unplanned machinery downtime.

The consulting firm Gartner Group believes, however, that the installation of IoT enabled devices will grow substantially in the coming years. Where the number of installed units this year is expected to be around 6,000 but will grow in the next five years to almost 21,000.  Gartner Group also suggests that companies that are early adopters of the technology will achieve the greatest gains.

3D printing

Metal highlights 3D printing, physical automation systems with the use of, for example, intelligent robots and not least IoT.

3D printing is currently undergoing an explosive growth.  Consulting firm A. T. Kearney expects the 3D printing market to double over the next four years and by 2020, have a turnover of over 113 billion €.

Growth in the use of 3D printing is exploding in the world’s largest economies. The price of the technology, also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM), has reduced exponentially in recent years.  It has become possible to 3D-print in several materials such as ceramics and metals, which has paved the way for new applications. The combination of these factors means that more and more companies deploy the technology.

The applications of 3D printing is spreading all the time and with printing in metals and ceramic materials complementing and as an alternative to traditional manufacturing methods.

Robots in manufacturing

The use of robots in manufacturing has also shown impressive growth. According to the international robot federation IFR, the number of industrial robots in use increased by 48 percent in the period 2010-2014. In the US, the use of industrial robots is growing rapidly.

Industrial robots are on the verge of revolutionizing manufacturing. As they become smarter, faster and cheaper, they’re being called upon to do more. They’re taking on more “human” capabilities and traits such as sensing, dexterity, memory and trainability. As a result, they’re taking on more jobs – such as picking and packaging, testing or inspecting products, or assembling minute electronics.

Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing adopted by Germany and the US

The development of Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing concepts and implementation of solutions is currently carried out mainly in Germany and the US. Both countries have established networks to facilitate cooperation between industrial companies, suppliers of technology, education and research institutions and government agencies. The networks are intended to publicize the idea sets behind Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing and help to ensure that industry exploits ideas. In Europe we are behind.

Engineering 4.0 and SOLIDWORKS

Engineering 4.0 is all about using the 3D models for collaboration and automation within the whole company. Imagine one tightly integrated value chain from procurement to sales working with the same 3D models that are instantly updated, everywhere and for everyone. Imagine the new opportunities for collaboration around product development, for shorter time to market, for agile operations and for reduction in mistakes and waste.



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Silva Lill




Silva Lill, CMO
PLM Group