Most would say we are in the midst of a new industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is all about automation and data exchange including technology like cloud computing, augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR), and of course, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). While all this is going on, work still needs to get done. Customers have their deadlines and production must continue to deliver on that demand.

Manufacturing companies on the ground floor of this revolution are not only taking care of business—but also making an impact on how others can follow their lead into the era of Industry 4.0. Here are three companies that are transforming, innovating, and leading the way:

A Sweet Transformation

Shank’s Extracts, Inc. supplies vanilla extracts, other extracts, natural and artificial flavors, food colors, and syrups to a wide range of industrial, private label, and grocery customers worldwide. At one point, the company struggled with locating inventory, labor-intensive quality certification processes, and poor visibility into production. That all changed when management decided to move to a SaaS cloud-based ERP built for manufacturers.

Once the system was in place, the company increased inventory accuracy to 99.9% with real-time inventory tracking and control. Quality certifications and audit compliance went from a two- to three-week prep time to just hours. And now all product formulas, research and development, and new project requests are in one central location—for 2,400 active formulas and over 3,300 SKUs. Not only did Shank’s gain more visibility into its business, but it also went “digital” without the heavy IT investment or resource requirements that come with traditional ERP implementations.

Innovation on the Shop Floor

Polamer Precision manufacturers complex engine and airframe components for both military and commercial applications. The company has experimented with next generation technology on its shop floor, including the Microsoft Hololens, to innovate new human-to-system interfaces for its workforce. Polamer envisions overlaying work instructions specific to a role or work center on HoloLens to simplify worker tasks and ensure more efficient on-the-job training.

A Drive for Leadership

Accuride Corporation is a thriving manufacturer and supplier of wheels and wheel-end components to North American and European commercial vehicle markets. The company relies on cloud ERP to run its business and has recently expanded its deployment to a newly acquired plant in Milan, Italy. With its manufacturing cloud ERP system, Accuride is able to ensure quality and customer specifications using live statistical process control (SPC) and high resolution traceability.

Accuride leads its market by focusing on lean manufacturing to meet growing customer demands. In fact, the company has been recognized two years in row (2015 and 2016) by the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) for achievements in lean, and recently published a book on lean practices.

The key to the transformation that the fourth industrial revolution promises is that it’s a journey, not a destination. These manufacturers have shown that they can begin that journey while solving the day-to-day challenges of running their businesses. Putting the technology in place to enable transformation is important, but you still need to make sure you can deliver on customer demands.

Each of these manufacturers were recently honored with Impact Awards at PowerPlex 2017. Read more here.