The Evolution of Manufacturing: From 1.0 to 4.0 and Beyond

In discussing the volatility and uncertainty of today’s workplace, we often enter into conversations about technology, the digital age, and the evolution of the corporate world. These technological advancements have led to changes in all facets of life and all industries, but none more so than manufacturing.

Major technological advancements have shaped and re-shaped the manufacturing industry in a way that is starkly different from any other sector. From the birth of manufacturing in the Industrial Age to today, industry leaders have faced several large shifts.

Our quick and easy guide to the Evolution of Manufacturing

These shifts are known as Industry 1.0, Industry 2.0, Industry 3.0, and currently, Industry 4.0. Each one is characterized by a major development that re-shaped the fabric of the industry. In talking about these shifts internally and with our clients, we realized we were missing something: a holistic view of manufacturing – from the beginning to now.

So, here is our easy guide to the world of manufacturing:

Industry 1.0

We’re going all the way back to the beginning, specifically the 18th century. This is when the first machines that enabled mass-production, or at least what could be considered mass-production at the time, are introduced to the industry.

These water and steam-powered machines enabled small family businesses to increase their reach – expanding from serving a limited number of local customers to large organizations with a need for a managerial staff and an abundance of employees.

Key development from Industry 1.0: this is the start of the Industrial Age as we know it today. The industry focus on efficiency and scale, paired with early forms of automation and mass-production are earmarks of future iterations.

Industry 2.0

With the 20th century comes the development of electricity as a power source. The use of electricity in place of steam or water made machines more efficient, portable, and cost effective. Mass-production and the assembly line model becomes commonplace.

In addition to technological advances, we see the development of workplace processes. Just-in-time and lean manufacturing principles are defined, management programs are adopted, and a division of labor is established.

Key development from Industry 2.0: the creation of standardized business practices and an organizational breakdown loosely forms what we now know as the Top Down Approach. We’ll talk more about that later.

Industry 3.0

We’re going to get a little tech-y here. At the end of the 20th century, we see the development of integrated circuit chips and other electronic devices. These devices enable even more power in manufacturing machinery. Many day-to-day tasks, like assembly line production, become automated; machines are able to do this faster and quicker than ever before.

Automated systems are implemented to help with planning as well. New computer software is developed that allows for machine-learning to predict materials needed, project scheduling, and track the flow of product development.

Key development from Industry 3.0: automated systems effect more than the assembly line, creating a new way for machine-learning to predict project planning and other strategic initiatives. During this time, pressure to reduce costs moves many manufacturing plants to low-cost countries, formalizing the concept of supply-chain management.

Today: Industry 4.0

Finally, the manufacturing industry we have before us. Industry 4.0 is wholly characterized by the connection of the Internet of Things with manufacturing techniques. The development of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning has redefined what the industry is capable of.

Contrary to popular belief, this shift to Industry 4.0 is not eliminating jobs due to robotics or AI (read more on that here), but rather calling for a whole new set of skills – skills that are unique to humans. These new automated processes require an emotional and pragmatic intelligence that AI and machine-learning just can’t match. It’s time to prepare our teams for 4.0 – it’s here and it’s changing fast.

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