The term “Industry 4.0” refers to the transformation of the manufacturing sector by digital technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, 3-D printing, visualization, virtual/augmented reality and analytics.
Automated management of assembly lines, inventories and even downtime for preventive maintenance has improved flexibility, throughput and productivity. The use of robotics in complex processes has helped enhance reliability and quality while reducing occupational risks.
This transformation has thus far largely been limited to shop floors. Yet, there are three pillars that support the business of manufacturing companies: sales, production and service. Unless sales and customer service are also transformed, manufacturing companies will not fully benefit from their adoption of Industry 4.0. This is especially true for companies that manufacture configurable and customizable products and deal directly with customers (i.e., without distribution channels).