When you hear the terms “smart car” and “smart technologies,” it often makes me scratch my head to wonder how did we get as far as we did in the U.S. and Canada and not be very bright about it.

After all, a lot of things have been invented and improved over the past 300 years or so across the globe when it comes to manufacturing and production.

So when we hear from experts who talk about smart technologies, we can scoff at the notion that we weren’t very imaginative or instinctive enough to come up with better ideas in how we run our manufacturing operations, factories, and finishing and coating shops.

I used to think just that: smart technologies was a new catchphrase, and I was one who scoffed that we should all run out and buy the newest and shiniest piece of equipment to help run operations. Does anyone want to buy a VCR or a CD player?

But over the last few years, I have read more articles and heard more people speak about the realities of having better operations, which a lot of people call Industry 4.0.

It’s all about automation, data exchange, and virtualization through the use of artificial intelligence and other so-called “smart technologies.” It’s about making finishing and coating operations run better, faster, and more profitable if that pushes your buttons even more.

And in the world we run our businesses in today — where employees are hard to find to work in these facilities, and their pay is going up, up, and up — we must start to listen to those who tell us that Industry 4.0 will not only make us leaner and more profitable, but it will actually keep much business from closing their doors.

Pedro D. Castillo, M.Sc., from Therma-Tron-X in Wisconsin, has penned an exceptional piece called the “Impact of Transformation Technologies 4.0 on the Surface Finishing Industry” that we are very proud to present in this issue.

“Industry 4.0 represents the integration of algorithms and networks with machines, equipment, and systems to create an information environment in real-time that facilitates decision-making towards operational perfection,” Castillo writes.

Note that the goal in all of this is pretty straightforward: operation perfection. It isn’t an idyllic thought that we all hope to gain perfection in our business world because with what is happening with supply chain issues and global interruptions, we almost have to be perfect every time in order to make payroll sometimes.

I encourage you all to take a deep dive into what Castillo is telling us in his report, which is that we don’t need to work harder to make a profit and produce exemplarily finished and coated parts every day; it is just that we need to work a bit “smarter.”

“Human senses can’t be taken for granted as these add final value to the process, as industry 4.0 is only a tool to support final human decisions,” Castillo says. “Even if the final decision is approved, it must be human.”

Tim Pennington, Editor-in-chief

TPennington 3Tim Pennington is Editor-in-Chief of Finishing and Coating, and has covered the industry since 2010. He has traveled extensively throughout North America visiting shops and production facilities, and meeting those who work in the industry. Tim began his career in the newspaper industry, then wound itself between the sports field with the PGA Tour and marketing and communications firms, and finally back into the publishing world in the finishing and coating sector. If you want to reach Tim, just go here.

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