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Don’t Talk About Industry 4.0

With some 20 years of software development specifically for the improvement of PCB electronics manufacturing, I have seen a few things come and go. It was in those very early days, before the IBM PC, before LANs, and of course before email and the internet, that I set out with my initial team to resolve manufacturing issues with computers. We made our own crude LAN systems. We saved data on to cassette tape. But most of all, we started to learn from a core manufacturing perspective about the real issues in manufacturing.

Sure, there are plenty of “old production people around”, all of whom can spin a thousand yarns about their experiences, all of whom are to be respected. The reality though, is that the “big picture” in manufacturing was elusive to most people. Almost everyone had their own, justified of course, points of view, whether it was based in machine programming, industrial engineering, test preparation, materials handling, quality management, production management etc. The only people to really have the ability to see the whole picture were actually at too a senior level to give their attention to the manufacturing big picture as opposed to the business big picture, which, after all was their primary role.

Today, things have not changed so much. The manufacturing silos remain, looking after the business, looking after the team, and looking after one’s self. It is a hard environment in which to think about revolutions, especially ones that don’t involve guns, are not on TV, and especially those that have not yet happened.

Industry 4.0, positioned as the next industrial revolution, is a great marketing message, a bandwagon that brings into focus the needs of the industry in response to changes in the market. Manufacturing are guilty, sorry guys, of letting opportunities slip by. Key market changes have been happening for some time, but now they are developing into serious compelling issues. Industry 4.0, its name and position, could be just another example of hype, an attempt to breathe life into this somewhat stagnant area of the SMT industry. I would urge people though, before attempting to understand, believe or dismiss Industry 4.0, to look into the market drivers and issues behind it, understand the changes for what they really are, the effects to the factory, incumbent systems and operational practices, and see what needs to be done to seize opportunities.

I am currently submitting a monthly column on this subject as guest editor on the EMS Now website. The first instalment was on July 6th ,, and the next one is coming in early August. Please visit the guest editor page on the EMS Now website and follow my monthly Industry 4.0 series. You lucky people reading this can of course feedback your opinions to me directly on the series by commenting on this blog. I will aim to answer any points, either as a quick response, or to work the topic into the series. Your voice can and will be heard….

Let’s not talk about Industry 4.0. Let’s understand where manufacturing is and where it needs to go. Then….. we talk revolution.

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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