Yes we are all very excited about Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, IIoT, AR, etc. but do we really understand the business benefit? I am sure I am not the first or the last to ask this question, yet it is still very interesting and important. Companies that are implementing these technologies clearly have a specific business driver in mind and there are plenty of good examples. So I don't believe that its a case of technology for technology's sake but I am not sure that the industry realizes the ultimate potential that these technology can provide.
However if we "get into the helicopter" (a term I borrow from working with Danes for a number of years), which means to take a look at it from afar to gain a broader perspective - a picture of agility appears. What I am saying is that the application of these modern technologies can transform our manufacturing systems from rigid hierarchical control structure to a more agile distributed control structure and hence inherently make the production system more agile. In addition it provides a unique opportunity to embed data integrity, and a full history of every minute transaction being made. This means the potential for GMP compliance with very little effort!
Now I am going to go on a bit of a philosophical-academic tangent here, but guess what its a blog and where else can I do that? The premise is that production systems are characterized by chaos and that the best way to deal with managing chaos is by using system that have emergent behavior. One of the basic concepts with IIoT is decentralization and automation of the decision making by moving it to the end nodes of a system (end computing). This brings about emergent behavior which is the fundamental trait needed for agility. OK, this concept requires a bit more explanation, I understand but take my word for it, for now.
So what does this all mean? In short, the Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0 set of technologies provide a potential to have true agility in a production system with inherent compliance! Now all that is missing are a practical architectures and implementations, which I believe are well on their way in some industries.