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New Report Reveals 'Industry 4.0' Will Revolutionize Manufacturing in TN, North America

COVID-19 accelerates U.S., Canadian manufacturing sectors evolution into high-tech, data-driven industry

Despite this evolution, demand for the human workforce is expected to increase

Download official press release here.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – As the manufacturing industry in North America undergoes its fourth evolution—the so-called Industry 4.0 period that began before the global pandemic and accelerated in response to many societal challenges posed by COVID-19—technological advancements are significantly impacting the design of manufacturing work and the experience, skills, and competency of the workforce.

But a human-based workforce will not be replaced by an automated one, according to a report recently released by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Smart Factory Institute—a Chattanooga-based institute available to all manufacturers, large and small, across the country for innovation and workforce training. The report found that the digitalization and technologies associated with Industry 4.0 will not only positively impact the design of manufacturing processes, but will ultimately increase productivity and efficiency for those entities making the transition. Additionally, the greatest projected workforce need is for human-centered technological skills.

The Jackson Chamber hosted the first in a three-part event series today to discuss the report findings and offer recommendations to manufacturers, a timely and relevant discussion as Tennessee recruited 130 projects in 2021 alone, resulting in more than 34,000 new job commitments from companies like Ford Motor Company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, NOVONIX and Smith & Wesson.

“At each phase of the constantly evolving U.S. manufacturing sector, from Industry 1.0, which in the 18th century introduced the concept of mechanical production and steam power to, 100 years later, Industry 2.0, which saw the advent of mass production, and the information age encapsulated by Industry 3.0, the U.S. has been on the cutting edge of global manufacturing advancements,” said Smart Factory Institute Executive Director, Mary Beth Hudson. Likewise, today the industry-changing impacts of Industry 4.0 will revolutionize manufacturing of not only the near-term, but the future.”

According to the report, Industry 4.0 advancements will require corresponding changes in the workforce, much of which will need to be reskilled and retrained to meet the demands and respond to the opportunities ahead. The report also dispels the myth that all manufacturing jobs will eventually be automated. In fact, the need for humans with higher and more complex cognitive skills is expected to increase, and our workforce will rely even more heavily on “human” skills such as leadership, initiative taking, and entrepreneurship.

“The remarkable transformation we are anticipating will require a blended approach of human, machine, and human-machine augmented work arrangements supported by advanced technologies,” noted UC Foundation Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Dr. Chris Cunningham. “And institutions of higher learning are eager to prepare this highly skilled workforce and host the human-driven innovation needed to meet future demand.”

The report also found significant environmental benefits to this phase of advanced manufacturing, particularly with the integration of digital technology increasing equipment efficiencies and minimizing waste. “Smart factories will be more efficient and emit fewer greenhouse gases,” added Peak Performance President and CEO, Denise Rice. “Industry 4.0 is the most sustainable era in the history of manufacturing.”

Key findings from the report include:

A human-based workforce will not be replaced by an automated one. Despite the increasing presence of machines and automation under Industry 4.0, the greatest projected workforce need increase, at an impressive 58%, is for human-centered technological skills such as coding and interacting with technology.

Manufacturing outperforms other Tennessee economic sectors. While the state has experienced a decrease in employment and number of firms in manufacturing over the last 30 years, the rates in this industry are significantly lower than for other major industries, such as mining and construction, making it a more stable sector of the economy.

Motor vehicle/bodies/parts manufacturing remains vital to the Tennessee economy. Transportation equipment manufacturing has had a growth spurt the last 20 years, particularly in the Southeast U.S. and here in Tennessee, where employment has increased nearly 17 percent.

Despite employment trends, output is expected to increase. Rising global demand for advanced manufacturing underscores the critical need for widespread workforce development efforts to prepare the existing and emerging workforce for Industry 4.0 technologies and processes.

The Tennessee Chamber will host two additional events to continue the discussion of key findings and recommendations for North American manufacturers. The next event is virtual only, February 9 at 8:30am ET / 7:30am CT, and the final event will take place at the TCAT Smyrna/Nissan Training Facility (with a virtual option), February 16 at 8:30am ET / 7:30am CT.

Access the full report by clicking here.

About Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0. is a term used to refer to the way computers, data and automation are evolving. Building on the third industrial revolution that included the creation of the PC and the internet, Industry 4.0 takes technology to the next evolution by blurring the lines between the digital and physical worlds with the introduction of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and cognitive computing.

The manufacturing industry in North America is currently undergoing its fourth evolution into a high-technology, digitalized, and data-driven industry. This Industry 4.0 period began long before the COVID-19 pandemic but has been accelerated in response to many of the challenges associated with this pandemic.

About Smart Factory Institute

The Smart Factory Institute is a business-driven effort guided by the Tennessee Manufacturers Association driving innovation and technology in Tennessee and the southeastern United States. The Institute, operated by Peak Performance, in collaboration and partnership with the Volkswagen Academy, is an exclusive U.S. institute providing manufacturers with connections, collaborative relationships, and certifications for improving manufacturing processes by providing them with access to the latest technology in advanced manufacturing. The global network of Smart Factory Institutes by Deutsche Messe is comprised of leading companies and organizations in advanced manufacturing. For more information, visit

About Peak Performance

Peak Performance is a workforce training and consulting firm specializing in incumbent worker training for the manufacturing industry, serving businesses across the country from their headquarters in Chattanooga, TN. Peak Performance equips its customers to transform their operational strategy through comprehensive, sustainable solutions in people and processes. Their services are unique, customizing the training to their client’s needs, using real-world simulations and instructors from the manufacturing industry. For more information, visit

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