Episode 1 of (R)Evolutionizing Manufacturing: Where to begin a digital transformation

June 24, 2024
Smart Industry's Scott Achelpohl and Industry 4.0 thought leader Jeff Winter welcome you to the premiere of our new program on technology in manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 enthusiast and thought leader Jeff Winter and Smart Industry's Scott Achelpohl welcome you to the start of SI's monthly series of chats about how industrials large and small can embrace technology.

Jeff has joined us before, for a webinar and an Industry 4.0 article this year, but Smart Industry is pleased that he'll team with us once a month for (R)Evolutionizing Manufacturing.

See also: Navigating Industry 4.0: A guide for the rest of us

Manufacturing use cases for artificial intelligence, digital twins, predictive maintenance, cybersecurity, IT and OT convergence, automation, robotics, VR-assisted manufacturing, data management and dynamic search ... you name it, Jeff and Scott will probably talk about it—and more.

During this premiere, we begin with the ground-floor topic of How and Where Industrials Can Start Their Digital Transformation Journey.

Plus, Jeff and Scott answered questions you left on our social media channels here, here, and here or sent to the program via email. So please keep the questions coming!

Jeff and Scott hope this will become an interesting and informative series of programs, certainly with a generous amount of help from our audience. So stay tuned! We'll see you again in July.

Below is a partial transcript of this program:

Scott Achelpohl: Welcome to a brand-new Smart Industry program, (R)Evolutionizing Manufacturing. I’m your co-host, Scott Achelpohl, managing editor at Smart Industry, and I’ll be joined every month by my partner in this program, Industry 4.0 enthusiast and influencer Jeff Winter.

I came to Smart Industry from business journalism covering trucking and transportation … the other side of the supply chain, so to speak. I’m learning a lot about how stuff is made before it’s ever put on a truck, or a train, or a plane, or a boat. I’m hoping this guy—who has worlds of experience and insight into this lane of the economy—can teach me even more.

See also: How AI can transform a burdensome and complex manufacturing environment

Jeff Winter: Thanks Scott! I am excited to be here. So, for those who don't know me, my name is Jeff Winter, and I am the senior director of Industry strategy for manufacturing with Hitachi Solutions. What that basically means is it is my job to point my company in the right direction to be a best-in-class digital transformation solution provider for manufacturers. And in order to be successful at that I have to be intimately involved with that is happening in the industry—and that is why I participate in so many industry associations, standards bodies, research times, academic groups, and advisory boards—so that I can stay current on the latest and greatest and share those insights internally to my own team.

In 2021, I made a concerted effort to be more active on social media as a thought leader, and so I started sharing my learnings, my findings, and even my opinions to help educate and advance the industry—and it’s been a fun ride, earning me some pretty prestigious awards as a top thought leader for industry 4.0. So, this will be fun!

Scott: The terrain seems to be constantly shifting when it comes to technology in manufacturing. We tend to focus on the big ideas and buzzwords (Industry 4.0, digital transformation, smart manufacturing, etc.), but the tech that’s been brought to the industrial economy has proven to be nothing less than transformative. So, we’re here, once a month, to help sort it out, to cut through the hype. And have fun doing it.

See also: Metaverse, big data, and how AI can drive next-gen manufacturing

Jeff: I have taken part in dozens and dozens of podcasts, but so far—this one is a first for me. I like how most of the questions that we will be answering are audience-driven. How cool is that? Each episode will have a theme to it, and we will promote each. Ask your questions as comments to my posts or send an email to [email protected].

Our topic is how and where to start with a digital transformation. We received more than a dozen questions to start, most of them we are going to save for future episodes because they will relate more to other topics. But today's topic is how and where to start.

And with that, I will hand it over to Scott to start!

Scott: We thought we’d spend a few minutes starting on the ground floor, so to speak, by talking about how and where manufacturers can start their digital transformation journey, and we landed on this idea: Defining the difference between “Industry 4.0” and “digital transformation.”

For help with this, I’m turning to Jeff to help explain the differences.

See also: Making digitalization stick depends on human-centric approaches

Jeff: This is a great question and one that gets asked often. Here is the best part (or worst part), depending on how you look at it. There’s no universally accepted or agreed upon definition for either. And that is OK, because at the end of the day—it’s up to every company to come up with their own definition for what works for them.

But here is how I like to describe it, when people ask me …

Industry 4.0 is the nickname, or moniker, given to the fourth industry revolution, and as its name implies, it’s a revolution in the way industry operates, including how everyone works, often resulting in big changes in society. So far, we have had three major industrial revolutions, each making big shifts in how the whole industry operates.

The first was all around steam power, the second was around electricity, the third was the computer and internet, and the fourth is all about smart, autonomous, and interconnected systems that blur the lines between the digital, physical, and even biological worlds. It’s about capturing and harnessing the power of data to change the way we make decisions and even provide value.

See also: Navigating red-alert security challenges in manufacturing

The term was famously introduced to the world at Hannover Fair in Germany in 2011 as part of the German High-Tech strategy.

Originally, Industry 4.0, as defined by the German High Tech Strategy, focused on integrating cyber-physical systems, IoT, and smart factories to create highly efficient and automated manufacturing processes. Over time, this concept has expanded to include connected products and services across various industries, extending beyond production to revolutionize entire business models and consumer experiences through enhanced connectivity and data-driven decision-making.

Digital transformation is the journey companies take to harness all the new digital tools and skills. So, while Industry 4.0 sets the stage for a new industrial era, digital transformation is the path businesses follow to thrive in this new landscape.

But digital transformation also applies to concepts and industries well outside of the scope of Industry 4.0. For example, improving health care with telemedicine and electronic heath records, or optimizing retail operations with e-commerce and digital marketing.

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl

I've come to Smart Industry after stints in business-to-business journalism covering U.S. trucking and transportation for FleetOwner, a sister website and magazine of SI’s at Endeavor Business Media, and branches of the U.S. military for Navy League of the United States. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism with many years of media experience inside and outside B2B journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit Smart Industry and report and write all kinds of news and interactive media on the digital transformation of manufacturing.

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