Is Your State Ready For Industry 4.0?

industryA recent study by McKinsey & Company found only 48 percent of manufacturers consider themselves ready for Industry 4.0. This next evolution promises efficiency gains by combining technology, human interface and predictive modeling from end-to-end of the manufacturing process. Human-machine interface and digital-to-physical transfer may sound like science fiction, but forward-thinking companies are quickly adopting these industrial applications with positive business implications.

During Iowa’s “Year of Manufacturing” — a statewide initiative to identify and activate strategies to grow Iowa’s $29 billion advanced manufacturing industry — several key elements of Industry 4.0 emerged as priorities. Here are three disruptive trends Iowa is tackling now to ensure continued growth within our state’s largest industry.

1) Training workers with the right skills

A big challenge for Midwest manufacturers is to recruit workers with the technology skills to manage or repair advanced robotics or understand output data. To prepare for these workforce needs, Iowa recently passed the Future Ready Iowa legislation. The state’s goal is for 70 percent of its workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. The initiative includes support for STEM learning, apprenticeship programs and the creation of a scholarship fund that will allow any Iowan to attend one of the state’s 15 community colleges tuition free. Iowa also administers workforce education programs to help employers partner with local community colleges for employee training, at little or no cost to the employer.

“Business and local government partnerships have never been more critical. Is your state ready for Industry 4.0?”

2) Fast Connectivity in Urban and Rural Areas

Interconnectivity forms the bedrock of Industry 4.0 and requires fast internet speeds — at least 1 gigabit. Manufacturers, more than most industries, are located in rural areas where ultra-fast internet is not always widely available. In fact, of the 10 states with the highest concentration of manufacturing, only one —Iowa — ranks in the top 15 for broadband access, according to U.S. News & World Report. Iowa’s broadband access ranks high because in 2014, the state enacted a plan called “Connect Every Acre,” which included legislation to increase access through a mix of tax incentives and grants.

3) Roads, Highways, Interstates that Collect & Share Data

Autonomous vehicles will play a large role in Industry 4.0, offering a key area of cost-savings for manufacturers. A PwC analysis estimates autonomous, long-haul trucking could save manufacturers nearly 30 percent in total transportation costs through 2040. This same analysis found the most important technology to enable autonomous trucking is smart roadway infrastructure. Smart infrastructure would communicate in real-time with trucks and state traffic computers, ensuring autonomous vehicles have enough data on roadway conditions and traffic to operate safely. To develop this infrastructure in Iowa, the Iowa Department of Transportation is currently partnering with state universities and a coalition of automakers. These partners are using a grant to test the technology on a heavily trafficked interstate corridor between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. With this test, Iowa will be able to more quickly position the smart infrastructure needed to facilitate autonomous trucks.

As the chief business development official for Iowa, a state with more than 6,000 manufacturers, I understand the key to compete in a global economy and address these trends is public/private partnerships. This process connection, real-time communication and data generation will revolutionize manufacturing on a scale not seen since the introduction of computers. Business and local government partnerships have never been more critical. Is your state ready for Industry 4.0?

For more information, visit Iowa Economic Development Authority.