Industry 4.0 and Its Relation to Continuous Improvement and MOM

As we traverse the Fourth Industrial Revolution, often called Industry 4.0, there’s a palpable synergy between the novel technological paradigms it introduces and the age-old principle of Continuous Improvement (CI). Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) is the linchpin connecting these two domains, ushering in a new era of manufacturing excellence. This article delves deep into the evolutionary journey of industrial revolutions, the essence of Industry 4.0, and the symbiotic relationship between Continuous Improvement and MOM in the context of this revolution. We’ll explore how these elements’ seamless integration offers industries unparalleled growth opportunities, efficiency, and adaptability.


A Brief Review of the History of The Industrial Eras

Let’s delve into the four industrial revolutions, marking the significant changes and innovations that have occurred over the years:

1. First Industrial Revolution (Late 18th to Early 19th Century)

  • Primary Era: Approximately 1760s to 1840s
  • Key Drivers: Transition from hand production methods to machines and the growth of the factory system.
  • Major Breakthroughs/Discoveries:
    • Steam Engine: James Watt’s improved steam engine was crucial in powering machinery, particularly textile production and transportation.
    • Spinning Jenny: Invented by James Hargreaves, this was crucial for the mechanization of textile production.
    • Power Loom: Further accelerated textile manufacturing.
    • Mechanized Cotton Spinning: It made shifting production from homes to factories possible.
    • Railroads: Steam-powered trains revolutionized transportation, reducing travel time and cost.

2. Second Industrial Revolution (Late 19th to Early 20th Century)

  • Primary Era: Approximately 1870s to 1914 (beginning of World War I)
  • Key Drivers: Technological advances in steel production, petroleum, and electricity. It marked a period of rapid industrialization and expansion of industries.
  • Major Breakthroughs/Discoveries:
    • Bessemer Process: A method to produce steel more efficiently and in larger quantities.
    • Electricity: Innovations in electrical engineering made it possible to use electric power in factories, changing production processes.
    • Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell’s invention transformed communication.
    • Internal Combustion Engine: Powered automobiles and started the age of motorized transportation.
    • Petroleum: Its refinement and use in engines changed transportation and various industries.

3. Third Industrial Revolution (Mid to Late 20th Century)

  • Primary Era: Approximately 1960s to the end of the 20th century
  • Key Drivers: Automation, digitalization, and computer technology.
  • Major Breakthroughs/Discoveries:
    • Semiconductor and Microprocessor: Revolutionized computing power, enabling the development of personal computers.
    • The Internet: Started as ARPANET and evolved into a global network, transforming communication, business, and entertainment.
    • Automation & Robotics: Robots started to perform repetitive tasks in production lines, enhancing efficiency.
    • Digital Storage: It allows storing vast amounts of information in compact spaces.

4. Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) (21st century):

  • Primary Era: Beginning in the early 21st century and ongoing
  • Key Drivers: Fusion of the physical and digital worlds, driven by advancements in various interconnected technologies.
  • Major Breakthroughs/Discoveries:
    • Cyber-Physical Systems: Integrating computer-based algorithms with physical processes.
    • Internet of Things (IoT): Interconnecting everyday objects to gather and share data.
    • Big Data & Analytics: Using computational power to analyze vast datasets and derive actionable insights.
    • Cloud Computing: Data storage and access over the internet.
    • Smart Factories: Automated factories that visualize and adapt the entire production chain.
    • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Algorithms that can learn from data and make decisions.

These revolutions brought significant societal changes that profoundly impacted economics, employment, and daily life.


Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, refers to manufacturing technologies’ current automation and data exchange trends. Several vital elements characterize it:

  • Cyber-physical systems: These are systems where computer-based algorithms collaborate with physical processes. Examples include robotics and automation equipped with sensors and software.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): The concept of connecting physical devices, vehicles, and buildings to the Internet to collect and share data.
  • Cloud computing allows for data storage and access over the internet rather than on local servers or personal computers.
  • Big Data and Analytics: Using advanced computing to analyze vast amounts of data to uncover patterns, correlations, and insights.
  • Smart factories: These are factories where machines are augmented with web connectivity and connected to a system that can visualize the entire production chain and make decisions on its own.

Industry 4.0 merges the physical and digital worlds in manufacturing, optimizing operations, reducing costs, and enhancing product quality. It can revolutionize industries by allowing for more flexible, efficient, and customizable production processes. So, are you involved in any industries impacted by this revolution?

Industry 4.0 is currently in its growth phase

  • Inception: When Industry 4.0 concepts were introduced around the 2010s, many industries and companies began understanding its implications and potential benefits. The foundational technologies like IoT, cyber-physical systems, and cloud computing were still relatively new in many applications.
  • Growth: We’re seeing a wider adoption of these technologies across various sectors. Many companies are investing heavily in integrating Industry 4.0 concepts into their operations. Rapid technological advancements, increased awareness, and broader adoption by industries of all sizes characterize this phase. There’s also a notable increase in the number of solutions and services available to support businesses in this transformation.
  • Maturity and Decline: These phases are yet to come for Industry 4.0. Most businesses would have adopted these technologies in the maturity phase, and the growth rate might slow. The decline phase might shift towards the next significant industrial evolution or paradigm.

It’s essential to note that the pace of adoption can vary by region, industry, and individual businesses. While some industries or regions might be experiencing rapid growth, others could still be in the early stages of adoption. Given its transformative nature, Industry 4.0 will influence industries for many years.


What is Continuous Improvement’s Role in Industry 4.0?

Continuous Improvement (CI) and Industry 4.0 are closely intertwined. As a consultant in CI, you’re already well-versed in optimizing processes, reducing waste, and enhancing overall efficiency. With the advent of Industry 4.0, there are several ways in which CI can benefit:

  1. Real-time Data Collection: You can get real-time data on various processes with IoT and sensors. This allows for quicker decision-making and immediate interventions when deviations occur.
  2. Predictive Maintenance: Using data analytics and machine learning, you can predict when a machine or system might fail or require maintenance, reducing downtime and improving overall efficiency.
  3. Enhanced Flexibility: Cyber-physical systems and automation enable a more flexible production system. This allows for quicker changeovers, customization, and scalability.
  4. Reduced Waste: With more accurate data and better analytics, businesses can identify waste more effectively, whether it’s in terms of materials, time, or other resources.
  5. Employee Empowerment: As repetitive tasks get automated, employees can focus on more value-added activities. This can improve job satisfaction, innovation, and a more skilled workforce.

Industry 4.0 offers tools for service industries to enhance customer experiences, improve service delivery, and optimize operations using data analytics, automation, and cloud computing.


How do MOM and Industry 4.0 go together?

MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) is a holistic solution that provides complete visibility, control, and optimization of manufacturing processes. MOM systems facilitate the seamless execution and management of production operations from order release until finished goods, encompassing various functions such as production scheduling, execution, documentation, and advanced analytics.

Critical Components of MOM include:

  1. MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems): These systems track and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods, providing real-time feedback on production activities.
  2. Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS): These tools help optimize production cycles and streamline the allocation of resources.
  3. Quality Management: Ensures consistent product quality through data collection, analytics, and adherence to standards.
  4. Maintenance Management: Focuses on equipment maintenance to ensure minimal downtime and consistent production capability.
  5. Labour Management: Involves tracking labour productivity and efficiency, helping identify areas for training or process improvement.

Relation of MOM to Industry 4.0

MOM plays a crucial role in realizing Industry 4.0 goals. Here’s how they interconnect:

  1. Data Integration: MOM systems can integrate with IoT devices, sensors, and other Industry 4.0 technologies to collect real-time data from the production floor.
  2. Real-time Analysis: With big data analytics, MOM systems can process vast amounts of data in real-time to provide actionable insights, enhancing decision-making.
  3. Cyber-Physical Systems: MOM integrates the digital and physical components of manufacturing. MOM systems can adjust production parameters accordingly as machines “communicate” their status or needs in real time.
  4. Digital Twinning: MOM can utilize the concept of a digital twin (a virtual representation of a physical entity) to simulate and optimize manufacturing processes.
  5. Enhanced Flexibility: With data-driven insights, MOM systems can better adapt to changes in production requirements or external factors, a cornerstone of Industry 4.0’s vision for flexible manufacturing.
  6. Supply Chain Integration: MOM’s holistic view of manufacturing operations can include the entire supply chain, streamlining processes from raw material sourcing to customer delivery.

In essence, while MOM has existed in various forms before the rise of Industry 4.0, integrating modern technologies and concepts amplifies its capabilities, making it a key component in achieving the vision of intelligent, efficient, and flexible manufacturing environments.

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