Manufacturing’s Technology Driven Ethical Dilemma

Adam E. Badenhorst
5 min readAug 26, 2018
@andreeas via Twenty20

Whenever I’ve thought about manufacturing, I’ve always of the assembly line with workers putting together a car or a piece of machinery. I’d say that’s a pretty common imaginary view of manufacturing and how the plant floor operates. Obviously, larger factories would have more production lines. But, that’s a rather old, archaic view of manufacturing. The industry has expanded and transformed due to the associated cost pressures on the margin and the need to manufacture efficiently and effectively. To alleviate some of that pressure, some manufacturers have accepted the Industry 4.0. In doing so, they adopted a more technologically driven approach to production.

What is Industry 4.0?

Originally presented at a trade fair in Germany in 2011, Industry 4.0 is the idea that automation and robotics with IoT to transform manufacturing into what some call the ‘smart factory.’ The objective is to allow for decentralised decision making while having visibility and cyber-physical systems that monitor the production process. To achieve such an objective, manufacturers need to employ cloud computing, AI, and robots among other helpful technologies. All in all, this approach to manufacturing could be dubbed as the fourth industrial revolution. Sounds rather cool doesn’t it?

Does all manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0?

According to a McKinsey study, only about 16 percent of manufacturers have an Industry 4.0 strategy in place. That number appears to be relatively low. And it is. Thinking about why that may be the case, the most likely cause is the cost to modify the production process and in doing so add expensive technology. There is a large sunk cost associate with purchasing and this technology not to mention the infrastructure that should be in place to use the technology.

Another likely cause to the lack of adoption is the idea that it’s all or nothing. In other words, manufacturers may view it as they either go all in or they don’t. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way necessarily. In other words, one could adopt to it in pieces as it makes sense and budget allows for it.

Now, it sounds great to adopt to Industry 4.0 and become a technically advanced manufacturer. Don’t get me wrong…

Adam E. Badenhorst

Enterpreneur. IT & Heritage Consultant disrupting industries. AI, blockchain, SaaS, ERP.