Industry 4.0 and The Future of Manufacturing

Every revolution produces winning and losing ways of doing business. What will it take to win this time around?

Table of Contents

What is Industry 4.0? 

Industry 4.0 is a popular term for the next industrial revolution. While it originated from a team of scientists, it is most often attributed to the World Economic Forum (WEF). While Veryable’s mission runs counter to many of the items on the globalist agenda proposed by the WEF, we recognize that the ideas spurred by the Industry 4.0 framework have great potential. 

The useful ideas rolled up into the term “Industry 4.0” include interconnectivity, decentralization, advanced manufacturing technology, and new man/machine interfaces.

However, many hold significant distrust for the Industry 4.0 agenda espoused by WEF due to concerns around surveillance, privacy, labor displacement, and the general feasibility of some of the loftier goals requiring huge capital investments without first seeing clear benefits.

To avoid getting caught up in the buzzwords and muddy waters of this agenda, we will discuss the future of manufacturing more generally. While there is definitely some overlap between what we call “The Future of Manufacturing” and Industry 4.0, we feel the distinction is necessary for a proper discussion of the core ideas that will drive innovation in the next industrial revolution.


What is the future of manufacturing?

When we say the future of manufacturing, we mean the next wave of technological advancements and innovative business practices which will radically transform manufacturing. We’re talking in terms of historical revolutions, rather than buzzwords or shiny new toys.

Once you drill down into the practical ways manufacturing needs to evolve, you see that more so than technologies, the business practices such as Lean methodology and labor practices need updates. This goes far beyond IIoT and automation.

While IIoT, automation, new man-machine interfaces, additive manufacturing, and other technological advancements are undoubtedly necessary for the next evolution of manufacturing, it all has to start with labor.

New technologies come with a huge price tag, which means that most manufacturers won’t be able to afford these technologies right away. That leaves the truly accessible options for innovation in the realm of operational methodologies and labor.

The shiny gadgets are only as useful as the way they are deployed. In the ideal future of manufacturing, these advancements would not just benefit the first few to cross the technological threshold; the technology would benefit all of manufacturing and society as a whole. These advancements will be meaningless if they do not elevate human life by making work more meaningful, improving efficiency, giving people time and agency, producing less waste, and improving customer satisfaction.


What are the big ideas of the future of manufacturing?



The future of manufacturing will be:

  • Agile
  • Customer-centric additive
  • Asset-light
  • Decentralized

These big ideas are what are necessary for the most efficient iteration of manufacturing we have seen yet. There is already evidence of early adoption of each of these big ideas, which we discuss extensively in the in-depth articles linked throughout this page.


What is asset-light manufacturing?

Asset-light manufacturing is when a company produces using less fixed-cost assets (such as machinery) than they would traditionally. Most of the value in an asset-light company comes from the intellectual property and customer service they provide. Technological advancements which reduce the work required to produce goods make this a greater possibility in the future for those companies who can adapt their business models.

Asset-light manufacturing will have been achieved when instead of each company having to purchase specialized machinery for each process step, they can simply source the modular parts they need locally, quickly supply modified design files as necessary, and use additive manufacturing to apply their own intellectual property to finish the customized product. 

In this way, they will be able to focus more on IP and customer relationships and less on vertical integration, because the need for that will be made obsolete by the superior responsiveness of the local supply chain.


What is customer-centric, additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing is customer-centric when it customizes the customer’s product at a competitive cost without compromising lead times.

Artisans can produce customized items or apply customizations to existing mass-produced items, but this is not done at scale and comes at a considerable cost to the customer.

Customer-centric additive manufacturing would provide the same level of customization without the added costs, resulting in true customization at scale. While this might have been a dream a few decades ago, advancements in additive manufacturing technology have made this an inevitable reality in the near future.

Companies must plan for gradually transforming their production processes and supply chains to adapt to this new model.


What is decentralized manufacturing?

Decentralized manufacturing is the arrangement of the supply chain in such a way that production occurs as close to the customer as possible.

There are many benefits to this model, including lower delivery costs, reduced lead times, and improved responsiveness to customer feedback.

When combined with additive manufacturing and flexible manufacturing models, decentralized manufacturing will change the entire supply chain drastically, resulting in more efficient production that more accurately meets demand both in terms of volume and customization.


What is agile manufacturing?

Agile manufacturing is when a business can react quickly to changing situations. Real-time agility is the future of manufacturing, which will require companies to be able to adapt to changing customer demands on a daily basis.

Matching capacity to demand in real time is the ultimate goal in agile manufacturing. Additive manufacturing, decentralized manufacturing, and asset-light manufacturing all contribute to real-time agile manufacturing capabilities.

The remaining piece of the agile manufacturing puzzle is the most immediately actionable: the adoption of on-demand labor.


What else will change in the future of manufacturing?

The future of manufacturing will require changes beyond the big ideas listed above. Notably, Lean methodology needs an update to align better with the flexibility required today and into the future.

Management methods will have to change to meet the decentralized nature of the future of manufacturing. Organizations will face new challenges when they have to move to a more horizontal org chart.

As a result of the changes in the supply chain, layouts of cities might change. The changes in production could lead to monumental shifts in city planning to accommodate asset-light, decentralized, additive manufacturing. Decentralized manufacturing footprints could lead to decentralized cities with improved walkability, more green space, and new opportunities for innovation which are not possible when limited by today’s industrial requirements.

Data standards and interoperability are also necessary to implement the next evolution of manufacturing. With so much data coming from so many sources, it will be vital to have standardized formats so that systems can interact with one another and businesses can have full visibility into what’s happening to make real-time optimizations.


How can your company start the transition to the future of manufacturing?

The most immediate step you can take into this vision of the future of manufacturing is to start deploying on-demand labor to match capacity to demand in real time.

A flexible labor model enables you to staff to a minimum viable headcount needed to meet your lowest demand. Then, when demand comes in above your baseline, you can flex your capacity up as needed. This enables true flexibility and agility.

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