In the near future, mandatory work doesn’t exist anymore

Last week I attended the Industry 4.0 Mixer in Shenzhen and, as a good seminar is supposed to do, it made me think.




There were three wonderful speakers displaying their company’s result in realizing connected, integrated manufacturing. Sometimes even cradle to cradle or modular and scalable. Evident in all speeches was that it’s about big consultancy firms developing solutions for big clients, mostly located in rural China with acres of ground at their disposal and more money in their swimming pool than the rich uncle of Donald Duck.

I would like to make the analogy with Formula 1 racing: We may have approximately 20 of such racing teams, but we have billions of cars on the road for people like you and me. Of course it’s a good thing if we could make the racers more energy efficient, quieter and safer than ever before. But on a global scale this doesn’t have any impact whatsoever. To stay in this analogy: Only improving the majority of normal cars on the road can have effect on the environment and ultimately on the economy.
For the same reason, it is necessary to address the situation in the millions of small and medium size factories. It is these that should get connected, integrated and become an effective part of Industry 4.0 in order to have a meaningful impact on our society and environment.

The goal and potential power of Industry 4.0 is to connect every piece of equipment in a factory together, automate the whole process and connect the ERP system with that of suppliers and logistic partners with as result the most efficient manufacturing solution possible. Something like the factory Spacely Sprockets, where George Jetson is the only employee and he starts the factory in the morning by pushing one button and shuts it down in the evening by pushing the same button once again. But of course in Industry 4.0, the factory wouldn’t even need to start and stop. It would run 24 hours per day year round.
The question is how to realize this. The answer is Maker Spaces, Accelerators and Incubators.

To address the needs of the smaller factories, the solution can only be created by the smaller inventors. Solutions created by big consultancies are financially not within the reach of small manufacturers and even in matters as housing and location there are no scalable or movable solutions developed for manufacturers in urban environments.
Worldwide, thousands of people have taken initiative to pursue their dream of creating more efficient work and manufacturing environments. Some want to bring professional manufacturing within the reach of the average Joe, locally in their town or even in their home. Some desire to make production processing more efficient and controllable from just one computer or a mobile phone. And some even dream about connecting the world and integrate all systems of mining, logistics, processing, assembling, distribution and ultimately recycling of the materials. What all of these initiates have in common is that they are NOT connected to each other!

It reminds me about the time of video tape recorders. For audio tapes there was a standard form factor. You could choose a better quality tape if you wanted, but also the cheaper tapes would fit in your cassette player and work just fine. How different it was with video tapes. There were several different technologies, all doing basically the same thing but in a different way. Not one system was compatible with another.
The exact same thing was true for computers. It was until IBM created an open architecture that standardization in computers became a fact. And as a result, they are until now one of the most important players in the market of computing technology.

To harness the true power of Industry 4.0, we have to put our hands and minds together and create affordable open standards that connect to any kind of equipment with the software of your own choice. Something similar to Android, where basically any Android phone can run any app to control just about everything in our daily life. Add a dash of perfect security, so that this new open standard is safe to use and not prone to hacking, and off we go!

It’s time to speak out and collaborate. Use your seat at your local maker space to develop your concept or prototype. Good initiatives will get funded, but only if you reach out and show the world the potential of your product. Make it connectable. Make it able to talk to other products, including the ones not developed by you or your company. Make your product interchangeable and become the next IBM!

This article is written by Henk Werner and first appeared at

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