It sounds impressive, has a lot of doctors of philosophy signed on as it’s originators, and it’s imported from Europe. Industrie 4.0, note the German spelling, very fancy, is the latest rage around the world of industrial automation.
Personally, I think it’s just a fancy marketing campaign to stimulate sales of automation control systems. Alleging itself to be a systematic definition of the generations of automation, Industrie 4.0 is not a useful framework. It omits major forces like energy, labor and the implications of 3D printing mostly focusing on the implications of IT being combined with automation systems.
The new buzz word here is Convergence. Manufacturing and Information Technology are in the process of converging. Big manufacturing enterprises have seen this coming for some time. The forces are compelling. Big budgets for automation and IT are expenses that can be leveraged and reduced, so there is a big incentive for blending the two roles. This is really what Industrie 4.0 is about, only couched in historical context to make it (or it’s creators) appear more important.
However, Industry (as we spell it here in the US) is in it’s proper context, about work. We should be talking about how we do work. Work 1.0 was when a guy went fishing to feed himself and his family. Or cleared a field and tilled a row of crops with a hoe. Manual labor. We need to remember Work 1.0 because there is always labor involved, craft, artisan, technician, expert, a human being is involved.
Work 2.0 was when we figured out how to harness animals like horses to do work for us. Hence the term Horsepower. Mankind also learned how to harness wind and water to power and do work with less labor. Wind mills to grind wheat and lift water for irrigating crops. Techniques for increased productivity.
Work 3.0 is the early mechanical revolution which was going on for centuries, but depending on where you want to pick up the thread (pun intended) of history early mechanical knitting machines were making socks automatically in the mid 1500’s.
Work 4.0 is the classical Industrial Revolution which bring steam power, the ability to provide massive mechanical power regardless of location, and powers all of the mechanical inventions of previous centuries and invents new ones. The locomotive engine, steam powered ships on the ocean, created transportation systems that expanded civilization’s range.
Work 5.0 is the electrical age is incredibly ironic since we convert heat to steam in one form or another and use steam systems to turn generators for electric. During the early days of the electrical age two other very important evolutionary steps take place. The factory method of assembly or mass production of the first Ford car plants, and secondly the use of electric relays as method of controlling equipment automatically.
More next week.