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Industry 4.0: The Next Generation of Manufacturing

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance  •  231-582-6482  •

Hannah Sanderson, NLEA Business Attraction & Growth

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us—known as Industry 4.0—the trend of automation and rapid data exchange in manufacturing. Over time we have watched the development of steam and water powered machines in the first industrial revolution, to mass production by way of electricity in the second, to the third involving the utilization of computers in manufacturing. Now we are moving forward with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning.

The third industrial revolution introduced computers into our mind-boggled world, and Industry 4.0 is taking that implementation to the next level by pairing it with the “Internet of Things” and the ever-mysterious cloud. Industry 4.0 has made the “smart factory” a reality by connecting computers and machines to one another, allowing communication and changes to be made to a product or line without the intervention of a human. Machines talk to one another and access data at an instant, ultimately leading to higher efficiency, productivity and less waste in manufacturing. The network of machines talking to one another—constantly sharing information—is the defining raw power behind Industry 4.0.

With machines leading the charge, how do we take steps forward into the fourth industrial revolution?

Start identifying your opportunities and inefficiencies. Look at your current operations; perhaps one opportunity is within your supply chain. A connected chain can adjust when new data is received and/or automatically switch to the creation of a new product when quantity has been met. Currently, there are autonomous shipping yards around the globe that are expediting the transfer of shipping containers.

Robots are becoming more affordable and grant endless possibilities for users; 3D printing of prototypes, for example, advances creativity, implementation, and production, while producing less waste due to continuous communication and constant tweaking of production.

Although industry 4.0 is still in its infancy stage, it’s taking strides forward each day all over the world and allowing our manufacturers to upskill their current workforce and fill gaps within the current workforce. To learn more about Industry 4.0, please contact Hannah Sanderson at the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance at 231-582-6482 or

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