PREVIOUS INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONS
There have been 3 Industrial revolutions. Steam, the assembly line and computers have all revolutionized manufacturing, each one dramatically increasing production capabilities. Now, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (sophisticated networks that connect physical objects to data networks) are driving a 4th revolution.
WHAT IS INDUSTRY 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is essentially “smart” physical products communicating with computers which collect and interpret data for the benefit of brands and consumers. For the apparel industry this means an RFID tag can be attached to raw materials or a garment. This garment not only communicates with the machines that are making it at every stage of production, but also can be tracked all the way through sale. This means a brand knows exactly how long it took from conception to where and when it was sold – Total connection of the product lifecycle. Additionally, systems could be set in place to automatically restart production when inventory falls below a certain level. The impact on brands cannot be overstated.
ECONOMIC DRIVERS BEHIND THE REVOLUTION
Put simply, consumers are demanding better products made faster and companies are working hard to meet that demand.
- The Amazon effect (Speed to Market): Amazon has trained consumers that they can have anything in two-days. Product based businesses must respond to the demand
- Turbulent times for trade: Tariffs are a reality in a product-based business and current economic projections are for more volatility
- Sustainable practices: Consumers are more frequently demanding fair and sustainable sourcing practices. Brands seeking ecologically sustainable manufacturing practices are moving manufacturing closer to the consumer
These same factors, combined with the capabilities of 4.0 technology, are also bring factories back to the USA. Part of the solution is bringing the factories closer to their consumers. With 4.0 technology, it is now possible to compete with the cheap labor overseas with a smart factory located in the USA. Even if every factory overseas adopted 4.0 manufacturing practices, they still have to deal with the reality of distance, and the speed to market demands driven by today’s consumer. Over 20 percent fashion companies’ in the United States, sourcing volume could be from nearshore (and onshore) by 2025..
TRADITIONAL MANUFACTURING vs. 4.0 MANUFACTURING
Twentieth Century manufacturing required mass amounts of cheap labor to produce products driven by low prices – resulting in ethical labor and environmental waste issues. Manufacturing 4.0 produces exactly the amount of inventory needed, made by well-trained people using data and machine learning to increase production, cost efficiency and make predictions about future production runs. The chart below compares the two manufacturing practices:
Ultimately, for customers manufacturing 4.0 means tailor-made products at affordable prices. For industry it means highly flexible mass production that can be rapidly adapted to market changes.
HOW IS BLACKSMITH INTERNATIONAL DRIVING THIS REVOLUTION?
Blacksmith International, in conjunction with non-profit, FutureINDesign, is currently building a state-of-the-art manufacturing and manufacturing training facility in the town of Price, UT.
Not only will this bring hundreds of new jobs back to rural Utah, this initiative will position Utah as a leader in an emerging market before other states have the opportunity to establish footholds.