You are, I am sure, aware of Moore’s law. But just in case you aren’t, this law describes both the increasing density of transistors per square millimeter in a computer chip and the resulting cost reduction that occurs. The graph below illustrates this – note the Y axis.

Similar laws apply to the improvements in network capacities and the cost of data storage.

The decreasing costs and / or increase in capability of hardware has spurred equivalent growth of software i.e. more software functionality at the same or lower costs.

For general examples of these cost reductions, we need only look at smart phones, websites, computer games, etc.

The manufacturing sector has not escaped this explosion in software functionality with associated cost reduction. Think of the increased functionality offered by CAD tools with limited increase in costs.

The promotion of the 4th Industrial Revolution and IoT is in recognition of the massively increased offerings at low cost that are now available.

Manufacturing companies talk about and use tools and techniques like Excel, MRP and of course Lean.

It is interesting to see when these were developed from a time perspective. As you can see in the image below, a while ago.

Notes:   1) You might have slightly different dates, 2) Visicalc was the original spreadsheet, 3) IBM developed the Smart Phone long before Apple made it famous.

Here’s the thing: what is the likelihood that better solutions have been developed, which either supersede or substantially enhance these ‘old’ technologies? Pretty high, I think.

If new hardware will deliver orders of magnitude improvements over old hardware in terms of speed, power usage, cost etc. is it likely that more modern software solutions will also deliver similar benefits to organisations? They do!

Technologies discussed under the concept of the Fourth Industrial revolution, or IR4, did not just appear. They are the current state of development of solutions that have been improving over time.

What about combinations of modern systems that make old approaches obsolete? Think Uber combining cell phones and cell networks, Google Maps and card payment mechanisms to disrupt the taxis industry. Or, AirBnB.

I can’t speak for other technologies, even though I am constantly bombarded with success stories related to the implementation and success of these.

In my world of production scheduling and tracking, it comes as no surprise to find that factory productivity can be increased by +/-25% as a result of improved resource co-ordination, derived from using an advanced scheduling solution. Or that the scheduling and planning effort can be reduced by +/-80%. Advanced Scheduling solutions are after all competing against algorithms developed and encoded in the 1960’s to the 1970’s.

If we agree on, or at least accept, the likelihood that modern systems will radically outperform older techniques or algorithms, then the question becomes “Why don’t we see the use of more modern manufacturing technologies more often?”.  That, my friend, is a story for another day.