Manufacturing 4.0 is more than a lofty notion: It’s changing the landscape of manufacturing as we know it, and that’s a good thing, said Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs, during the CAMX 2019 general session on Tuesday. “Technology and digitization can bring value to the products we make, can bring value to the workplace of our employees and can bring efficiencies to our plants,” she said.
Founded 20 years ago, Protolabs is a manufacturer of custom prototypes and on-demand production parts with manufacturing facilities in five countries. It pushes the envelope of digital manufacturing to accelerate product development, reduce costs and optimize the supply chain. Holt shared her insight on how to harness manufacturing 4.0.
“The revolution is an evolution. It has been built on a lot of things that have come in the past,” said Holt. For instance, the growth of programmable logical controllers on plant floors for process controls in the 1960s and 70s were preambles for the type of digitization we have in manufacturing today. Even lean manufacturing is a precursor because it helps ensure you aren’t digitizing a process that has a lot of waste in it.
“All the work we’ve done as manufacturers sets us up for this industrial revolution. But we are at the early stages,” said Holt. “If you think you can sit on the sidelines and not be part of this manufacturing revolution, I think you are wrong. It will happen all around us, and we need to take advantage of the tools and think about how to use them to bring value into our businesses.”
Holt shared 5 tools that are impacting manufacturing: