You snooze, you lose

Please keep on reading, because I am going to use the written equivalent of a snooze button. Industry 4.0. Although I could just have easily said Internet of Things, Connected Industry or any of a host of related terms. The point is that as terms they are overused and overhyped, with the consequence that their real meaning and value is becoming lost. And one of the main points that is being lost is who it is relevant to. Obviously it is relevant factory managers if they want their factories to be ‘smart’, but those who think that is the beginning and the end of the story do so at their peril.

Industry 4.0 affects everybody involved in the life cycle of a machine or product. Most importantly from the perspective of Eureka! readers, it starts with design engineers who have to know how to design equipment for this digital manufacturing world, or design the products that are going to be made in it. Furthermore the engineer no longer starts with the metaphorical blank sheet of paper as inputs from the producer, user and maintainer of that product will have defined some of the parameters before its design can even start.

There is much confusion and in this issue we aim to help demystify the topic and even enthuse those engineers who have switch off to Industry 4.0 so far, by launching a major series of articles under the banner ‘Insight to Industry 4.0’. Our cover story this month introduces the topic with the views of some of the major automation companies who are both users and suppliers of this technology.

One thing they all agreed on was the critical role of the design engineer if Industry 4.0 implementation is to be successful. Hopefully our articles will define the reasons for this and the opportunities that lie ahead.