Transitioning from Industry 3.0 to 4.0: “To Infinity and Beyond!”



4-0-tech.jpgI may not be Buzz Lightyear, but I certainly look forward to the limitless future of manufacturing!

Throughout my career immersed in world-class manufacturing, I have seen many changes to the landscape. Through these transformations, I have noticed that invention and innovation- supporting continuous improvement practices have always been deeply rooted in the changes we enjoy both today and long into tomorrow.

My “epiphany moment” for understanding this was in 1986 during a NAFTA Quality Circle competition. As I gave my closing comments on the presentation, I assured the senior leadership panel, “This is not the end, it is a new beginning.” Thus, my passion for Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement was born.

Today, I am privileged to meet with and support many small to mid-sized manufacturers in Michigan. They bring great value with their products proudly made in Michigan. However, many of these manufacturers are unaware of the information and opportunities associated with Industry 4.0 technologies – including Big Data, Cybersecurity, Augmented & Virtual Reality, Robotics/Automation, Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, Simulation, System Integration, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things. My hope is to provide some insight and encouragement for those who are considering their next steps towards technology adoptions.

Before deciding to implement technologies, manufacturers should first understand the benefits and reasons behind implementing them. Industry 4.0 has the power to positively impact companies by:

  • Enhancing computational power and connectivity
  • Promoting human-machine interaction
  • Focusing on analytics and intelligence
  • Encouraging advanced production methods

With the benefits identified, the next steps to identifying improvement opportunities and preparing for operational change involve:

  • Assessing your financial stability and technical capabilities
  • Embracing change to learn and grow your business
  • Determining what keeps your business from quickly adopting new and better ways of manufacturing
  • Understanding the current state of your business, along with the desired future state
  • Realizing radical change or investment is NOT required to begin

Regardless of which technology you decide to adopt, the bottom line is this: how you start defines how you will continue. In most cases, where you choose to start will be based on what practices you already have in place.

During the most recent Industrial Revolution, or Industry 3.0, we found ways to measure and analyze processes to determine corrective actions for improvement. In this era, many manufacturers experienced great success utilizing highly effective statistical tools, such as Statistical Process Control (SPC), the 7 Quality Tools or Business Operating System. These all involved data collection, which allowed the methods of scientific problem-solving (Plan-Do-Check-Act) or Six Sigma (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) to be applied. Additionally, the workforce was engaged through the creative application of Lean tools to address the quantified problems. Manufacturers who put these practices to work for them were able to stabilize and improve their profitability.

Moving beyond Industry 3.0 and into Industry 4.0, as any experienced Lean professional would tell you, my advice is, “Let’s not reinvent the wheel.” Manufacturers can build on their existing practices and innovations and make them more powerful with the help of Industry 4.0 technologies. For example, the above statistical methods are made even more powerful with Big Data as the framework to drive business intelligence and inspire improvements. Like all implementations, this can be scaled to the needs of each organization to keep efforts at a manageable level. This might mean starting with one machine, a work cell, a business unit or any place where a detectible action is found.

Smaller manufacturers have an opportunity to explore the future of Big Data with “IIOT Out of the Box,” which we recently launched as part of a partnership in West Michigan. Integrating IIOT Out of the Box to gather, monitor and control performance with data enables manufacturers of all sizes to drive profitability through more effective business decisions. To learn more, contact us at

As stated above, for those who are looking to advance with Industry 4.0, “This is not the end, it is a new beginning.” The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is here to help start this new beginning the right way. We have developed our Industry 4.0 services with the small to mid-sized manufacturer in mind. For support with exploring Industry 4.0 technologies, or to complete an Opportunity Assessment, contact The Center at


CRUZ_J-WEB2019.jpgJess Cruz, Business Development Manager, The Center-West
Jess Cruz is the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West (The Center-West) Senior Business Development Manager at The Right Place. In this role, he informs, assesses, advises and develops relationships with key decision makers within West Michigan to support their efforts to retain sales, gain new sales, and achieve cost savings for their respective businesses. He is also responsible for working with manufacturers in Kent and Barry Counties.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Advanced Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement, Industry 4.0, Innovation