Editor's Note: The Race to Tomorrow Is On

April 15, 2014

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A lot of the manufacturing conversation has centered lately on Industry 4.0, aka Industrial Internet, aka digital manufacturing, aka advanced manufacturing. Semantics aside, these terms all mean one thing: fully automated, intelligent, and self-regulating factories powered by autonomous robots and orchestrations of production control data and digital information.

This technological shift is inevitable, and it’s coming to change the manufacturing landscape forever again. Figure the Germans and Japanese to be part of it, as always. But now, count on the Chinese, too. Market analyst IHS predicts for the next few years, Asia-Pacific (aka China) will lead growth in industrial automation, the precursor to self-adaptive manufacturing environments in a few years. Last week at the huge Hannover Messe industrial automation fair in Germany, the Chinese were second in international visitors by country.

It's good to know the U.S. isn't sitting still. A digital manufacturing consortium led by American multinational giants is embarking on its first project, and there is an open invitation to smaller manufacturers and suppliers to join. The global supply chains of these blue-chip manufacturers will soon be preferred partners versed in the language of automation. Americans can ill-afford to be spectators in tomorrow’s manufacturing ecosystem and should make their way to the starting line now. William Ng, Editor-in-Chief, wng@thomasnet.com.

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