The asterisk has long been used to highlight exceptions or to call attention to a footnote or annotation. For example, a home run record that was influenced by an extended baseball season was noted with an asterisk. This mark is also used to call out legal terms or extended information on a topic.

Learn how CDW solutions and services can help manufacturers achieve Industry 4.0.

I think we should be using an asterisk in our conversations about Industry 4.0. This blog explains why I chose an asterisk instead of some other mark in my description of Industry 4.0*.

COVID-19 and Industry 4.0

For years, Industry 4.0 has been the objective of manufacturers seeking to continue the evolution and integration of the Internet of Things into the smart factory. They wanted to gain insight into their systems or push toward a complete “lights-out facility,” where no human hands touch a product throughout the manufacturing process. In the era of COVID-19, this objective is increasingly important — and in some cases, essential.

I believe Industry 4.0* might be the next step in the evolution of manufacturing, or it may represent a simple add-on. We aren’t ready for Industry 5.0 or even Industry 4.0a. In my mind, Industry 4.0* represents the technologies that would typically be part of Industry 4.0, but are now required to protect warehouse and manufacturing workers and customers.

The push for coworker screening, contact tracing, autonomous cleaning solutions, wearables and enhanced video analytics aligns well with what a smart factory or Industry 4.0 calls for. But it is also something that manufacturers can drive toward separately from their overall goals to build smart factories.

Address Immediate and Future Industry 4.0 Needs

What am I bundling into Industry 4.0*? What we see among the immediate needs of manufacturers around restarting their facilities is a demand for:

  • Employee screening solutions such as heat sensors, controlled entry points with medical staff and personal protective equipment stations
  • Employee tracking and traceability solutions such as video or wearables
  • Fogging and ultraviolet cleaning systems that can be run on autonomous vehicles, drones or robots

These are all technologies that may get some pushback or be seen as unnecessary a year from now if the coronavirus is curtailed, but ultimately they all provide solutions that will feed or assist in a manufacturer’s Industry 4.0 goals.

Moving to Industry 4.0 Technology

Manufacturers will be using video to monitor equipment, wearables to track employee safety and falls, and cleaning solutions to maintain safe workspaces. These will be investments that collect and provide data to drive many valuable business outcomes, such as product tracking and increased plant uptime. Also, it is worth noting that all of these solutions can be modified to be used in other industries, including retail and distribution centers.

No matter where you are on the journey to Industry 4.0, CDW can help you through workshops or with the solutions listed above. We can assist you in bringing your facilities back online or in expanding the safety and protection of your employees and even getting you to Industry 4.0*.

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