November/December 2020 | Vol. 25 No. 6
Technology has unlocked productivity gains during each industrial revolution. The steam engine powered the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, standardization and electricity-,
gas-, and oil-powered equipment helped push manufacturing productivity to new levels as part of the Second Industrial Revolution. Electronics, telecommunications, and computers automated the Third and the internet and data collection/analysis
are hallmarks of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
NEMA Members are already part of this latest revolution and, accordingly, are well- situated to meet an uncertain future.
As the power of the internet became apparent, electrical manufacturers began implementing end-to-end digitization across their supply chains, becoming more efficient than ever before. With more than 30 billion connected devices in homes and manufacturing
facilities (and counting), workers monitor production lines, check inventories, and resolve malfunctioning equipment remotely. What previously took hours or days can now be completed in minutes, resulting in dramatic efficiency and productivity
gains. Connected machines can notify plant managers of the optimum timing to perform preventive maintenance and detect potential issues before they happen using predictive analytics. These tools lead to more productive factories with less
downtime and more reliable product shipments. Other benefits include increased sustainability, reduced operating costs, higher product quality, and smarter changeovers.
This latest Industrial Revolution will continue to expand manufacturing capabilities, but we will realize the next great technological leap using emerging wireless technologies like 5G. The speed and bandwidth benefits of 5G are well-known and
impressive, but the real breakthrough is low latency, the time delay to transmit and receive information. The latency of newer networks can allow machine operators located hundreds of miles away to make custom products with the same precision
as those physically in the factory. Manufacturers that have struggled with finding qualified staff to match factory output can now search across the United States, potentially without the need for people to relocate.
Implementing 5G and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will require electrical infrastructure. Miles of conduit and cable, advanced power distribution systems, and various other technologies made by NEMA Members are required to enable
a more productive industrial sector. NEMA companies’ products run the data centers that provide connectivity, protect people and sensitive electronics from being harmed, and operate the robots that automate industrial processes.
Not surprisingly the electroindustry is at the forefront of these momentous technological changes, both as adopters and enablers. Electrical and medical imaging equipment manufacturers are reaping the supply chain efficiency and resilience
gains enabled by Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Furthermore, electrical manufacturers empower these technological leaps by creating the safe and secure electrical backbone required not only to operate digital systems but every
other aspect of our economy and society.
And no doubt, NEMA Members will be there when we the Fifth Industrial Revolution arrives… whatever it may bring. ei.
Kevin J. Cosgriff
NEMA President and CEO