Chapter 6. Transforming Manufacturing

Manufacturing has been evolving in leaps and bounds, and data has transformed this industry, as well.

Industry 4.0

The history of manufacturing is one of a continual quest for higher quality, greater efficiency, and lower cost. Improvements in these areas come as both step-function increases and incremental improvements (see Figure 6-1). The first dramatic increase came at the end of the eighteenth century with first the widespread use of water and then later steam power, enabling the creation of the first truly mechanical production facilities. This Age of Steam, a key enabler of the Industrial Revolution, would hold sway for more than a hundred years.

History of manufacturing
Figure 6-1. History of manufacturing

In the early twentieth century, improvements in the reliable generation and distribution of electricity along with advances in the design of electric motors heralded the death of steam giving birth to the Age of Electricity. This in turn was supplanted in the 1970s by revolutions in electronics and computers, which helped to automate much of the manufacturing process in the Age of Automation.

Each of these paradigm shifts was followed by a period of refinement during which the new manufacturing methods are improved over time (though the astute reader will have noticed the length of time between each new paradigm is reducing).

We are now on the cusp of ...

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