A Preliminary Assessment of Industry 4.0 and Digitized Manufacturing in the North American Woodworking Industry
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Forest Products Journal
Industry 4.0, a term referring to the digitization of manufacturing, enhanced automation, and data-driven production systems, promises to bring rapid change to the secondary woodworking industry. Manufacturers in this sector, many being small in size and scale, may be challenged to remain competitive without understanding how Industry 4.0 principles might affect their operations. A study conducted with subscribers to a major secondary wood industry trade journal found that few North American woodworking companies were familiar with the term "Industry 4.0." However, that did not mean they were not making decisions about, investing in, and implementing digitization–computerization (digit–comp) in their manufacturing operations. Well over half of study respondents indicated that their firms had made a significant investment in digit–comp over the past 3 years. Several respondents stated that software and technology integration was the most unexpected problem encountered, and that skilled labor was difficult to find. A variety of training types were sought by firms that had made significant Industry 4.0-related investments, especially training related to machine operation. Although a plurality of respondents from both small and large firms indicated that increased digit–comp would not change their number of employees, small firms were more likely to say more employees would be needed and large firms were more likely to perceive a decrease in employees. Perhaps the greatest challenge to successful implementation of Industry 4.0 will be the lack of a strategic plan—just 19 percent of small firms indicated having a vision of how digitization might affect their business.
KeywordsWood industry; digitization; computerization; manufacturing; Industry 4.0
Bumgardner, Matthew; Buehlmann, Urs. 2022. A Preliminary Assessment of Industry 4.0 and Digitized Manufacturing in the North American Woodworking Industry. Forest Products Journal. 72(1): 67-73. https://doi.org/10.13073/FPJ-D-21-00064.