27 September 2017

What is Industry 4.0 and why should glaziers care about it?

One of the big trends at GlassBuild and in the glass industry as a whole is 'Industry 4.0'. While the hype around Industry 4.0 has been mainly targeted at glass fabricators, it's important for glass installers to keep up with industry developments as they will inevitably affect glazing businesses in the not-too-distant future if they aren't already.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 refers to a fourth, ongoing industrial revolution:

  • 18th to 19th century: Introduction of steam power, mechanizing some manual labor tasks
  • Late 1800s to pre-WWI: Introduction of electricity, further mechanization, larger factories, beginning of assembly lines
  • 1980s to present: Introduction of computers, automation becomes more commonplace
  • Present: Large-scale automation, greater integration between computers and machinery communicating via the cloud, less human intervention

For a more detailed analysis of what Industry 4.0 is and what is required for a factory/system to meet that criteria, check out 'What Everyone Must Know About Industry 4.0' by Forbes.

What does Industry 4.0 mean for glaziers?

As glass fabricators adopt new technology in their factories, the ripple effects will reach glass installers. This could mean changes in how you order glass from your suppliers, how you track that order, how quickly that order is delivered to you and more.

It may mean a change in how you work. As fabricators standardize their systems, you may have to make adjustments to ensure your glass order can be processed by their system (for example using an order portal or drawing your glass order in a machine-readable format), or paying through an online payment system. Whilst change can be disruptive, the potential benefit is worth it — faster, more accurate glass orders.

Automation is a hot topic in industry publications, we recently wrote about it ourselves for Glass Magazine: 'Before Automation' by Sam Frankland.

Smart-Builder and Industry 4.0

Here at Smart-Builder, we are active participants in Industry 4.0 with our product Smart-Glass for Fabricators. It is an online order entry tool that allows glaziers to draw the glass they need to order (including complex cutouts, notches etc) and submit the order directly to the fabricator online.

Glass fabricators around the world are using this program already. It saves them a huge amount of time by eliminating the need to redraw the glass drawings they receive from glaziers into a machine-readable format. The standardized format and reduced double handling also makes for more accurate glass — nothing is more frustrating than arriving on-site to find the glass you only just ordered doesn't fit!

Industry 4.0 is nothing to be afraid of

If you've managed to avoid technology for the most part in your glazing business so far, you may need to reconsider your stance over the next couple of years as the industry modernizes around you. However, we aren't talking about progress for the sake of progress here. Increasingly sophisticated glass production benefits both the glass installer and the glass fabricator — shorter lead times, faster production, less mistakes and transparency over the whole process from start to finish.

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