Sometimes the changes in manufacturing are so large, they are considered a revolution. We all know about the first Industrial Revolution when machines were introduced to produce cotton and weave textiles. The second Revolution is famous as well: Henry Ford brought mass production to factories so that goods could be made quickly and inexpensively.

During the third wave of manufacturing, data became important to how manufacturers automated production. Information technology, computerized systems, and other advances lessened the human touch on the assembly line while simultaneously producing goods and services quickly and cheaply.

Now we are entering the fourth wave of manufacturing existence. This fourth phase of manufacturing harnesses the amazing use of cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring goods to customers with more precision and accuracy than ever before.

Mass-Produced Goods Made in a Customer-Centric Way

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only way to make goods for sale was to make them by hand. Cobblers got to know the bunions, bumps, and arches of the feet of their customers; shoes were hand tooled. After the Industrial Revolution, shoes were mass-produced. They fit most feet, and that was acceptable.

Today’s cyber-physical systems marry technology back to personalization to enhance the customer experience. With new advances in computer technology such as 3D printing, cloud computing and IoT, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that the factories of tomorrow will receive inputs from shoe stores on main street and custom-mill shoes to fit your feet. They’re mass-produced forms customized to fit.

Shoes are a good example, because no two feet are the same. But such marriage of technology to customer needs can occur in business-to-business sectors too. Imagine a world in which plastic is formed into bumpers for cars not based on mass orders (“Give us 50 bumpers by Friday”) but custom orders (“We need 6 for sports cars, 13 for SUVs, and 31 for sedans.”)

Data Makes the Fourth Revolution Possible

We’re not quite at the point in which custom orders can be made so precisely. Although manufacturers may soon have the technology to custom-produce shoes, clothes, automobile bumpers, or lenses for microscopes, it’s much more common to produce mass runs of goods than custom runs.

Enter predictive analytics, the wave of the future for manufacturers. With predictive analytics, computer systems learn from the inputs they receive. They can scan orders, for example, and find patterns to predict future ordering trends. Manufacturers can then use data to produce a close match between supply and demand.

Prepare to Ride the Fourth Wave of Manufacturing

Computers changed the face of manufacturing in the 1980’s from mass production into technology-based production. Today’s new systems are slowly turning manufacturers away from technology and into the world of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and custom orders.

Have we come full circle? Or are we forging into unknown territory? Regardless, technology upgrades and new strategies are needed for manufacturers to ride the fourth wave.

Accounting Systems, Inc. can help you face the future in manufacturing with confidence. We offer the latest in software systems that will meet your needs today and in the future.

Contact us for a free consultation.