Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 4


UPTIME

Beware the Fourth
Industrial Revolution

Bob Williamson
Contributing Editor

A

s a presenter at a recent materialhandling conference, I took the
opportunity to attend sessions on topics
of maintenance, workforce development,
and automated handling and sorting systems.
Intriguing discussions on the "Fourth Industrial
Revolution," a theme of recent World Economic
Forum events, were a highlight for me. Technological advancements associated with this era are
already entering our plants. Their larger impact
on businesses and our socio-economic systems,
however, could be overwhelming. Are we ready?

Highly automated systems in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require
maintenance skills/technology to handle the sensors, transmitters, transducers, control loops, logic controllers, Wi-Fi networks, software, signal
cables, connectors, and circuit boards that make automation possible.

4|

Many readers cut their world-of-work teeth
during the Third Industrial Revolution, which
began the transition from pneumatic logic to
electrical controls, to microprocessor-control
strategies. The digital age was upon us with information technology (IT), computer mainframes
transitioning to personal computers, automatedmanufacturing systems, industrial robotics, and
the Internet. This timeline runs from the 1970s
through today or, as some are forecasting, through
2020.
The work processes and enabling mechanisms
and technologies of the world's first three
Industrial Revolutions grew at accelerated
rates: 120 years to 80 years to 50 years respectively. If we are to learn from that pattern
of growth and explosion of the Internet of
Things (IoT)/Industrial Internet of Things
(IIoT), we should fasten our seat belts. The
rates of change and emergence and adoption
of advanced technologies are increasing
exponentially.
What does this have to do with readers of
Maintenance Technology? Plenty. We're on
the cusp of the most significant changes ever
in modern industry. They will have a farreaching impact on how business is done and
how society interacts.

Industrial Revolutions 101

Creating false expectations

First things first: What were the previous Industrial Revolutions all about?
Most of us learned about the First Industrial
Revolution in world-history and social-studies
classes. The productivity of craftsmen, tradesmen,
and artisans was transformed by steam, water
power, and mechanization of traditional work that
led to cotton-spinning machinery and railroads.
Beginning in the late 1750s, it ramped up through
the 1870s.
The Second Industrial Revolution was characterized by manufacturing and the division of
labor, which included the introduction of electric
power, interchangeable parts and, eventually, mass
production with assembly lines. It spanned the
1890s through about 1970.

Hearing high-level engineering and technical
experts discuss the Fourth Industrial Revolution,
I became enamored with the possibilities. The
speakers frequently referred to totally automated
material-handling systems where everything is
autonomous. The only human involvement is
overall arrangement, control, and interlinking
system components. Amazing!
If I were a chief financial officer, chief information officer, or chief operating officer, though,
what would I have heard? "Automated machinery
and facilities can, and will, replace people." Wow!
No more worries about overtime, healthcare,
human error, grievances, vacation, cost-of-living
issues, a $15 minimum wage, and the list goes on.
Everyone-literally everyone-I hear waxing

MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY

OCTOBER 2016



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Maintenance Technology October 2016

Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover2
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 2
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 3
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 4
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 5
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 6
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Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover3
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover4
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