By now, we’ve all heard glowing references to Industry 4.0 as heralding the friction-free Factory of the Future. Indeed, there are some people already starting to talk about Industry 5.0 and beyond. But what is it they’re really talking about? Is it mostly just hype, or is it something you and your company should be paying attention to?
The First Industrial Revolution—what we now call Industry 1.0—goes back to the 18th and 19th centuries. That was when the energy that had traditionally been provided by humans and animals to carry out low-volume artisanal work in small shops going back to biblical times was being replaced by waterwheels and steam engines driving heavy machinery in factories dedicated to manufacturing goods at scale. By the start of the 20th century, those technologies, in turn, had been supplanted by the use of electricity along with the manufacture of precise interchangeable parts, assembly lines and mass production. That’s what we now call Industry 2.0.