Evolution of industry: from past to future

Ecem Engin, Shajee Haider Taqvi

This paper aims to conceptualize the stages of industrial evolution; and to highlight the key features that triggered such changes that resulted in the constant transformation of industry through time. After a brief definition, along with types and stages of industrial production, main purpose of this critical writing is to discuss the evolution process of industry from three major aspects: the ‘factory’, the ‘production methods’ and the ‘labor’.

To begin with, industry simply refers to the production, sale and purchase of goods. It is clearly related to the emergence of supply chain and market economies. Before the 1st industrial revolution, domestically produced goods served to a limited number of people; meanwhile, industry 1.0 have introduced service to larger organizations, while it simply changed the scale of production. Industry 2.0 enabled comparatively advanced machines; which designed their own power sources, making them portable. With the industry 3.0 model, manufacturers were more than able to automate the entire production process. Presently, industry 4.0 models has started to being implemented; which facilitated the previous methods of production with advanced technology and digitalization. Such industrial concerns as networking, logistics, communication, failure prediction are now handled by cyber-physical systems, instead of humans.

Before industrialization, production mostly relied on skill, use of hands and dependent upon a certain number of costumer, without the need of a market network, which is referred as ‘cottage industry’. It is the first stage in industrial evolution and yet, it can still be observed in some parts of the globe. Just after artisans realized that they could make more money by sub-contracting work to others; ‘putting-out system’ has evolved. The production has been maintained in the rural areas to supplement agricultural workers’ income. Nevertheless, market dynamics transformed constantly; resulting in a shift from small scale production to larger ones. This happened with three features: centralization and increased sale of production, changes in organization, and an extensive division of labor.

The first factories became a center for the industrial landscape as well as a generator of capital; and basically for urbanism. Factories had been built near or within cities; in order to attract labor and to be proximate to consumers. Over time; such problems as pollution, major incidents etc., have been observed as a result of factories being located within cities; thus, the way factories being set up eventually has been changed in a format where the location was set away from city centers. It has been observed that factories with a small distance to city centers than became the centers themselves; that is why they have been considered as ‘generators’.

Evolution of ‘labor’ in the industrial sectors is another crucial topic to delve into. To begin with, cottage industries consisted of family-labor; which means small industrial productions were specifically maintained by households, where all family members contributed. Then, putting-out system introduced such alternatives as ‘hiring’ labors by households. In the factory system, the number of workers increased as the scale of production site and supply chain also increased.

Production methods also evolved historically; beginning with mass production, which involves making multiple copies of a product. The end result is a quicker and cheaper production of identical goods. Just-in-time manufacturing is a model that cuts out waste and does not hold stock, while avoiding over-production. Lean Manufacturing depends on maximizing production while minimizing ‘waste’; which means anything that does not add value that the customers are willing to pay for. Mass customization is facilitated by computer-operated manufacturing that is flexible enough to produce individually customized goods at a low cost.

The evolution of Industry has had a clear impact on the people. The first industrial revolution went hand in hand with modern day education systems, where the factories that required a certain level of skill by their workers educated them in a set way. Over time, with the human knowledge base increasing, so did the diversification of industries. The change in the way people interacted with industry as well as the need for continuous growth by the capitalist model has created a number of problems and solutions. Contemporary industry looks towards several facets of interaction, from concepts like post human industries to virtual factories.

The big picture; what is Industry 4.0 and how will it work?

The biggest challenge of the digital transformation is going to be guaranteeing that different systems communicate with each other.

Marcel Wenzin

Industry 4.0 is an exemplified approach to this pattern, where it is defined by the cyber physical systems, that go beyond the automation introduced in the 3rd revolution. The 4.0 industrial revolution essentially is the digital transformation of manufacturing and related industries and value creation processes, characterized by even more automation, the bridging of the physical and digital world through cyber-physical systems, a shift from a central industrial control system to one where smart products define the production steps, closed-loop data models and control systems and personalization/customization of products.

The debate over industry 4.0 is how it will shape itself in the future, and how it will shape the future of industry, cities and the relationship of this particular two in between. Just like all industrial revolutions before, industry 4.0 certainly will increase humanity’s ability to create products, ship them around the world, and improve the customer experience. However, unlike other industrial revolutions, Industry 4.0 will enable unprecedented levels of automation, customization, productivity as well as efficiency. It can be interpreted from the recent research that people will be engaged with the production process in a way products are nearly fully customized for each customer. There are only ‘assumptions’ for what these sorts of flexibility and ultimate machinery communication will spatially and socially look like in the near future.

Further explanations due to the demands of industry 4.0 begins with vertical networking of smart production systems, which is expected to respond to the rapid changes in demand and stock levels of any kind. Secondly, horizontal integration via the new generation of global value chain networks are expected to enable an integration transparency, flexibility and global optimization. Thirdly, industry 4.0 is cross-disciplinary through-engineering across the entire value chain & life cycle of both products and customers; enabling new synergies to be created between product development and production systems. Finally, industry 4.0 has the impact of exponential technologies as a catalyst that allows individualized solutions, flexibility and cost savings.

 Accordingly, in order for a better implementation of industry 4.0; promoting an open mentality towards learning, change and experimentation is crucial. An ecosystem perspective should be adopted while preparing production and distribution process. Adaptation towards the management of extended data, as well as the materials and machines themselves, is extremely urgent. Industry 4.0 does not revolutionize all formats of the industry yet, there are manufacturing units that operate on previous principles because of a number of reasons which may include lack of knowledge & awareness, lack of financial capital, limited applicability of 4.0 and issues with data security.

To conclude, the industrial evolution has brought with it social and economic problems as well, from the stark differentiation between the global north and global south to issues that concern human morality. Issues that include, exploitation of labor, child labor, exploitation of nature etc. These social issues take root in the capitalistic model of industrial growth. The geographical dispersion as a result of industrial evolution will most probably be transformed into a new kind; basically because the lack of digital accessibility. In other words, the implementation of new industries has no specific location and scale, considering the cutting-edge technologies and changing trends in industrial networking. Scale-based trends are now small-scale, localized industries with full digitalization and automation; but it is hard to implement industry 4.0 at diverse locations especially when reaching to brand new technologies become harder and harder every day. It seems that industry 4.0 campuses that are about to be established will challenge the issue of ‘local production and economy’. Furthermore, the new customer profile would probably be the ones that have the access to digital communication, thus, the rest of the population would be another question mark with regards to social aspects.

On another spectrum, the way the evolution of industry has changed the industry itself is also worthy of mentioning. We observe that with the change in technology, the size occupied by various units of production has also changed, along with the interaction of the manufacturing process with itself. Production spaces have shrunken and become more efficient along with the industries looking at another level of interaction with society. Industry 5.0 is one such idea where the industries change priorities and look towards the societies interaction with the industry at a priority instead of efficiency and capital.

The evolution of industry has impacted every field of life, from the industries themselves to societies in their interaction with one another. The spatial context of industrial growth can be observed by looking at the new typologies and genre of activities that industry has brought about. “What we have seen over the past few years though, is that industrial Ethernet is now demanding more performance and a new architecture,” says Jörgen Palmhager. The evolution of industries, when observed keenly, can provide a backdrop to understanding the evolution of humanity itself; then the transformation can be smoothened up, rather than a radical change that would certainly cause various social, economic and spatial results that cannot be recoverable.


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