What we all know as “The Industrial Revolution” was the “First Industrial Revolution.” It was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States. It marked the shift from craftsman to machines using water and steam power. The Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era, impacting almost every aspect of daily life. Average income grew, and the population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth.
The “Second Industrial Revolution” introduced mass production assembly techniques. Mass production evolved very quickly, duplicating products using assembly line techniques where the assembly is broken out into discrete steps. Employees each work on an individual step, rather than having an employee work on the complete product from start to finish.
Although electricity had many fathers (Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, & Nicola Tesla to name a few) and was invented in the 19th Century, it took 40 years and the disruption caused by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (an estimated 50 million or more killed worldwide) to accelerate the Industrial Revolution with production machines using electricity. At that time, like now, the world had to figure out how to do more with fewer resources to survive. Technology using electricity to provide the first wave of automation became the mother of necessity at that time.
The “Third Industrial Revolution” was the Digital Revolution. The Third Industrial Revolution gave rise to semiconductors, electronics, mechatronics, computers, the internet (wired and wireless), email, and telecommunications. Through the new technologies and the new communication methods, the third industrial revolution made possible task automation using computers, pushing the bounds of product design, research, and biotechnology. Technologies that used to be analog moved to digital.
An easy to understand example is television – it used to be a few channels that were accessed by an analog antenna. Today your TV is connected to the internet or satellite dish with hundreds of available programs accessed digitally.
We are currently in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” or what some refer to as Industry 4.0, Manufacturing 4.0, or the Digital Transformation. Manufacturing 4.0 has been around for several years but has not been fully realized yet. The Fourth Industrial Revolution heralds a new era that builds upon and extends the impact of the Third Industrial Revolution in new and unimagined ways. Technologies are emerging that can have a profound and dramatic impact on our lives (both professional and personal). Technologies like IoT sensors and cameras, 5G wireless internet, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, mixed reality, and robotics.
Fusion 360, Forge, and the Digital Transformation
Autodesk Fusion 360 and Forge are at the forefront of this Digital Transformation. Fusion 360 is a unified platform delivering end-to-end product development in a single environment. Its cloud-based platform offers access to design data anywhere, and it features tools for design, mechanical engineering, simulation, generative design, electronics design, additive manufacturing, and CNC machine tool programming all in one software solution. Artificial intelligence is driving generative design in Fusion 360, and machine learning is driving Forge process automation for data-driven models and digital twins. Most importantly, Fusion 360 is a collaborative product development environment that connects design, manufacturing, and automation into a single, seamless process.
Manufacturing has become an important part of this Digital Transformation. Tools such as Autodesk Fusion 360 and Forge are enabling companies to customize and automate production through advances in machine learning, sustainable design, generative design, and collaboration, leveraging the inherent capabilities of integrated design and automated manufacturing processes.
History Repeats Itself
The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced the world to live and work distanced and digitally. At the same time, the pandemic has proven that some companies can flourish in this digital world. As a result, the Digital Transformation has accelerated.
Couple the disruption of the Pandemic with the new technologies of the Digital Transformation (5G, hybrid cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning), and companies are once again accelerating change. Digital Transformation is impacting all facets of the Corporation: IT, Process Management, Workforce, Security, Engineering, and Manufacturing. It’s not just about making information available to stakeholders digitally; it’s about leveraging that data to make decisions, drive processes, and ultimately serve customers.
The Pandemic has put companies in a position to do more with fewer resources to survive. It has been a catalyst to speed up many of these technological innovations. As a result, the world is now driving towards a tipping point.
The Pandemic has laid bare the importance of digital platforms, cloud collaboration, and automated systems, as well as the ability for people to work effectively within them. These technologies are now critical to surviving. Those companies still subscribing to old ideas are going to suffer.
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