Ten years ago, manufacturing seemed doomed, in the West, at least. The big topic was offshoring, and the general consensus was that there was no future for companies that did not join the flight to the lower-cost countries of Asia. Today, in a complete about-face, manufacturing is back, and not just because the costs of labor in these formerly low-wage countries have soared. Advanced manufacturing techniques, sensor technology, automation and communication networks—the components of Industry 4.0—are evolving and even now are changing the process of production, as we know it. In a very real sense, Industry 4.0 is ushering in a new industrial revolution.
In the plastics processing industry, the driving forces behind Industry 4.0 are the manufacturers of machinery. Plastics processing systems are equipped with an increasing amount of automation technology that is intended to enable them to communicate and process data by themselves; or, in other words, to become smart. This article explains how this changes everything for the plastics industry.