Industry 4.0 is taking shape through the Internet of Things (IoT), the system of devices and applications that communicate with each other through the internet. Best known for consumer goods – for example, the fridge that warns you when you run out of milk – but in fact must more relevant for the manufacturing industry. According to research firm McKinsey in 2025 the Internet of Things will contribute around 11.1 trillion dollars to the world economy. Production processes will be set up ever more efficiently, so that in the long run most innovative companies will be future proof.
The Internet of Things offers great opportunities for sustainability. Data makes it possible to monitor the wear and tear on devices and machines, which can significantly reduce maintenance and repair costs. Optimization will also have consequences for the amount of residual waste: the more data, the less waste. After all, a robot can act much more precisely than a human ever could.
Internet of Things especially means: connecting. Establishing new connections, combining data. Not only on the work floor, but also in logistics, sales and finance. Successful companies will operate increasingly as an integrated whole, efficiency is an asset. What this means in particular for the manufacturing industry: maximum customized work within a specific niche.
Service is also becoming increasingly important. We already see that within the manufacturing industry more and more attention is being given to service provision. Manufacturers are responding to the trend 'from ownership to use'. We are, after all, living increasingly in a share economy which can only exist by the grace of service provision. The shift towards services has an important sustainability aspect. Manufacturers see themselves faced with new challenges. It is no longer just about production, but also about (dis)assembly, re-use and recycling. The consequences of that cannot be emphasized enough.
The manufacturing industry is now mostly structured for the short-cycle. Where in the past mainly products with a long life were made, that period has gradually become shorter. For example, the life expectancy of desk computers has decreased from 10 to 3.5 years between 1985 and 2010! And the modern smartphone needs to be replaced after a maximum of 3 years, while the old Nokia devices still work perfectly well. That is not a coincidence. Across the whole breadth of the manufacturing industry, manufacturers work with ‘planned obsolescence’ – developing products in such a way that they must be replaced after a set period of time.
The old fashioned manufacturing industry is mainly focused on more and more production. But where service becomes more important, sustainability will play an increasingly important role. In a share economy it is important that products are robust, and function for a long time. Efficient processes – with a minimum of raw materials, waste and energy – will certainly benefit profitability. And if you don't want to change: right now the European Commission has legislation in the make to forbid ‘planned obsolescence’ completely. We say again: the future is in the hands of the ‘integral thinkers’.
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