Industry is continuously evolving. Within the last few hundred years, the main source of work was physical labor by humans and animals. In the 1780’s, innovations were made with water and steam power, leading to the first industrial revolution. This allowed for rapid advancements in the amount and scope of work that could be done. Proceeding the second industrial revolution, in the 1870’s, electricity was developed to a point in which it was applied in industry. This allowed for the development of electric conveyer belts for assembly lines, and mass production. By the late 1960’s the third industrial revolution was launched with the creation of the first programmable logic controller and development of better information technology. This allowed for the development of robotics used in manufacturing. These revolutions are occurring more and more rapidly as the growth and development of technology is exponential. Today we are witnessing firsthand the progression of the fourth industrial revolution.
Everyone knows about the internet in today’s world. We can access nearly any information at the click of a button. Not everyone knows what the Internet of Things (IoT) is, however. Essentially IoT describes objects that can connect to the internet. This could be anything from a smartphone to a smart toaster. An increasing number of products in today’s world are being developed with the ability to connect to the internet. With this ability comes the ability to communicate with each other. You can think of the concept of a smart house in which the appliances are able to communicate with each other, such as your thermostat automatically turning on the heat or air conditioning as it sees your phone leaving your office’s location. Applying this concept in manufacturing is what sparked the fourth industrial revolution. Combining increased connectivity and higher intelligence in equipment is leading to more flexible manufacturing. This integration of artificial intelligence with the production of our goods will lead to the most personalized and responsive creation of products we have seen to date.