We deal with a number of opportunities for innovation in our industry, yet few resonate as deeply with defence manufacturers today as “Industry 4.0”.
We deal with a number of opportunities for innovation in our industry, yet few resonate as deeply with defence manufacturers today as "Industry 4.0" (or i4.0). It's an enticing term, but what does it really mean? More importantly, where does the hype for i4.0 end and the realities (and limitations) of a new revolution begin?
Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution – an incoming era of cyber-physical systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous machines, and big data. It is the next evolutionary step up from our current "digital" revolution into a new age of connected technologies and data-driven insights.
Certainly, i4.0 promises big things for manufacturers across all industries. That includes Canada's defence sector where trailblazing manufacturers in the commercial and military space are already advancing the production of autonomous vehicles for land, sea, air, and space environments. As a result, they are beginning to see the promised cost-saving benefits and performance improvements that come with removing the man from the machine. As more manufacturers invest in smart, connected, and self-maintaining production equipment, we can expect the cost of ownership to shrink and the barriers to market entry begin to erode.
These technologies go hand-in-hand with advancements in data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. With these pillars of i4.0, manufacturers will have the means to more accurately predict and respond to CAF/DND supply needs, achieve smarter resource management, and use chips and sensors to better track and manage inventory and other assets. Ultimately, investments in the digital supply chain elements of i4.0 will improve speed to market, lower production costs, and facilitate more collaborative innovation. And considering that a significant share of aerospace and defence products are supplier developed, it is investments like these that will prove to be critical enablers for industry leaders.
The future is indeed bright. So the question is, how do we actually get there?
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