Craig Sutton, VP of Industry 4.0 and Todd Earls, VP of IT Digital Design & Manufacturing explain the evolution of smart factories and talk about the benefits manufacturers can realise by leveraging digital technologies and interconnected data analysis. 

Key takeaways:

  • The origins of smart factories began with the introduction of computers, robots and some automation. Today, Industry 4.0 offers a wide range of technologies, including: IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, machine connectivity, 3D printers, cobots and more. 
  • For manufacturers, the benefits of Industry 4.0 include gaining operational efficiencies and performance improvements, using data insights, driving productivity, flexibility and speed to market. 
  • Manufacturers can take their first steps toward digitalisation by assessing their operational challenges and seeing what technologies can be applied to resolve the problem. 
  • According to a McKinsey survey of 40+ manufacturers, factory output and productivity increased between 20 % and 100 % in factories that implemented connected data. Inventory lead time reduction improved by 50 % to 60 %, translating into clear, direct business impact to the bottom line. 
  • Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, can be an effective tool for prototyping and improving speed to market.  
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can be useful training tools when in-person or on-site visits are not possible. 
  • Cobots, or collaborative robots, are designed to work in close proximity with humans, and they can drive efficiencies in ergonomics and safety to loading while also driving productivity. 
  • Autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) autonomously and efficiently move material around in your factory to get it to the right point of use at the right time.
  • Cybersecurity is critical when leveraging any connected technology. Putting in safeguards at the onset is vital to the security of your systems. 
  • Factories of the future will use technology to create a harmonious eco-system between manufacturers and the supply chain. 

To learn more about how we're enabling factories of the future, visit


Craig Sutton

Craig Sutton is the vice-president for Industry 4.0 at Eaton. He drives the development and adoption of industry leading technologies to drive value and competitive advantage for Eaton's global manufacturing footprint.

Prior to Eaton, he worked for over 23 years at Deere and Company with roles ranging from customer support and quality engineering to product engineering, product validation and manufacturing engineering. He has a passion for new manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing, robotics, lightweight materials, digital manufacturing, Industrial 5G and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). He serves on the Quad City Manufacturing Lab board, the Western Illinois University College of Engineering advisory board, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Corp (IMEC) board, the Iowa Innovation Council and MxD Institute’s tech advisory council. 

Craig received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture engineering from the University of Illinois, an executive MBA from the Tippie School of Business at the University of Iowa and a Strategic Innovation Leadership certificate from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.  

Todd Earls

Todd Earls is vice-president, Information Technology, Digital Design & Manufacturing at Eaton. In this role, Todd is responsible for leading a team of practice managers, architects and functional analysts in support of enterprise engineering and operations functions globally.  This includes over 20,000 engineering users and 300 plants across Eaton.

Prior to his current role, Todd was an IT Business Relationship Manager in Eaton's Aerospace business and an IT manager responsible for the global deployment of PLM systems. Outside of Eaton and in between Eaton roles, Todd held several positions of increasing responsibility at Stryker Corporation, including his last role as a Senior IT Business Partner responsible for all IT strategies for one of their largest divisions and their global PLM programme.

He holds a bachelor of science in Computer Science from the University of Michigan and a masters of business administration from Michigan State University. 


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"There's a whole wide variety of technologies that are now possible via the computing power that's out there in the world today." 

Todd Earls, VP of IT Digital Design and Manufacturing, Eaton

"Going forward, we're going to move from a factory that only has insights to one that is truly intelligent." 

Craig Sutton, VP of Industry 4.0, Eaton

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