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Industry 4.0 Needs a New Name

Consensus around the terminology will avoid confusion

We are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It's an exciting development -- a transformation unlike any that has come before. "Industry 4.0" is the name that some organizations use to refer to the adoption of technology related to this Fourth Industrial Revolution, but does that name help companies understand the role that these technologies can play in their systems?

If you are not already familiar with this idea, the First Industrial Revolution is marked around the time of the American Revolution and refers to the start of using machines instead of hand-building techniques. The Second Industrial Revolution, beginning just after the Civil War, is noted for rail, electrical, and telegraph technology allowing for faster transport of goods and ideas. The Third Industrial Revolution, the digital transformation at the end of the 20th century, increased communication untold amounts. But this fourth phase, which integrates all kinds of connectivity through robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotech, quantum computing, the internet of things, and a lot more, is considered something different. And when we talk about how this technology integrates with manufacturing, it is often referred to as Industry 4.0.

Many small and medium manufacturers are already integrating some of this technology into their work flows in disparate ways from simple internet-enabled monitors or work instructions to more complex robotics and human-assist technology. 

As the MEP looks to ensure that companies have access to appropriate technologies, our federal sponsor, NIST-MEP (National Institute for Science and Technology, Manufacturing Extension Partnership) is looking for the right terminology. A name for this stage that will encourage small and medium manufacturers to embrace technology without being put off by it. Currently, any number of names are used including SMART Manufacturing, and Advanced Manufacturing Technology. NIST MEP also suggests Integrated Cyber-Physical Manufacturing, and Digital Thread Manufacturing. Do any of these names hit the mark for you? Let us know.