As a result of huge developments in the modern world, manufacturing has changed. With the use of computers, automation and cloud technology, factories are now safer places and are becoming increasingly efficient, guaranteeing high-quality outcomes for employees, but most importantly, for the customer.

Industry 4.0 is the latest phase in digitisation for the manufacturing sector. With increased productivity through intelligent, networked production systems, an Industry 4.0 marketplace means that machines offer their services and exchange information with products in real-time.

Using internet or cloud-based platforms for businesses to connect to their machinery enables manufacturers to digitally connect to their own production line, machinery and supply chain. Access to the production control system via tablet or smartphone allows mobile productions planning. Cloud technology provides workers with an insight into the status of productions orders and the machines along with ease when adjusting information such as job orders or production quantities.

Industry 4.0 has been driven by four disruptors: a rise in data volumes; increased computational power and connectivity; the emergence of analytics and business intelligence capabilities (for example, new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems); and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3D printing.

This advancement brings excitement to the manufacturing world. With connected, intelligent production units carrying the objective of optimising costs, lead times and resource consumption driven by individualised customer needs, there will be a new level of organising and controlling value chains through the use of all relevant information in real time. Cloud technology is a critical enabler of this next Industrial Revolution, by providing the means for businesses to innovate around these technologies.

The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is demonstrating how such a system can work in practice in a smart factory in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The pilot facility uses soap bottles to show how products and manufacturing machines can communicate with one another. Empty soap bottles have RFID tags attached to them, and these tags inform machines whether the bottles should be given a black or a white cap. A product that is in the process of being manufactured carries a digital product memory with it from the beginning and can communicate with its environment via radio signals. This product becomes a cyber-physical system that enables the real world and the virtual world to merge.

Within the manufacturing industry today, there are said to be two groups: the traditional first-generation manufacturers who may be struggling in the Australian market due to a lack of desire to invest in technology; and the innovators, who are finding themselves more success in a tough climate because they are open to adopting new ways.

“Industry 4.0 is being spoken about everywhere,” says Annaliese Kloe, Managing Director of Headland Machinery. “In particular, it was widely reflected at EuroBLECH 2016. It will widely change the approach to the way that manufacturers work, so if you aren’t looking into this now then you’ll be left behind. It will revolutionise your business, so it is vital to get on board.”

With an increasingly digital future ahead of us, this new era for manufacturing looks set to transform businesses worldwide. It is imperative for manufacturers to consider new technologies arising and explore how they can adapt their processes to comply with the expectations of the modern world. The experts at Headland can help you find out how your business can adapt. Headland has also released a new Industry 4.0 workbook – contact them at to obtain a copy.