The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What is it and Where’s it Going?

Since the 1800s, mankind has experienced three industrial revolutions. Each was instigated by new and disruptive technology. They’re called revolutions because the innovations of each era did more than simply improve productivity and efficiency, they revolutionized how goods were produced and how work was done.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

According to the World Economic Forum, the First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third, the digital revolution, used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution (i.e., Industry 4.0) is building on the Third. It began in the twentieth century and is characterized by a fusion of technologies that blurs lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

There are three reasons today’s transformations are not merely an extension of the Third Industrial Revolution: velocity, scope, and the impact on systems. The speed of recent breakthroughs is unprecedented. When compared with previous revolutions, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. And, it’s disrupting every industry in every country.

The possibilities for mankind connected by mobile devices—with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge—are limitless. And these possibilities are multiplying with technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

What are the advantages of Industry 4.0 technologies?

The new industrial revolution will help businesses become smarter and more efficient in the following ways:

  1. Optimization

    Smart Manufacturing and Smart Factories bring with them optimizations and a growing ability to self-optimize production leading to nearly zero downtime of your machinery. Optimization will play a major role in keeping high-end equipment maintained efficiently by having the right resources in the right place at the right time. Being able to utilize your production capacity constantly and consistently is better than major downtime or changeover.

  2. Customization

    The interconnections of Smart Factories and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) means your supply chain has shortened to a point where you must stay agile to customer demand. Communication between the customer and manufacturer will take place directly, cutting out the need for manufacturers to communicate between departments internally or with external providers. Smart Manufacturing allows easily scaling of production up or down in relation to market demand.

  3. Reduced Costs

    Implementing smart manufacturing may have a significant up-front cost, but if set up correctly can have a positive impact on your bottom line with the implementation of automation, systems integration, data management, and artificial intelligence all having a major role in the profitability of your business. Helping deliver these costs savings is improved use of resources, faster manufacturing, less machine and production line downtime, fewer quality issues, less material and product waste, and lower operating costs.

  4. Intelligent Technology

    Technology is progressing exponentially and having an increasing impact on our daily lives. Self-driving cars and augmented reality seem like science fiction, but these technologies are being used today. For example, Volvo has been testing autonomous trucks in a shipping port environment to collect data and view the interactions with the humans working alongside autonomous vehicles. Selecting the correct technology is paramount for your business’s success in Industry 4.0

What are the challenges of Industry 4.0 technologies?

The new industrial revolution will challenge businesses in the following ways:

  1. Cybersecurity

    The interconnection and digitization of systems is a key feature of Industry 4.0, meaning there are more devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). This represents an enormous cybersecurity challenge in terms of data protection and intellectual property. You’ll need to implement robust security systems to protect against hacking and unintentional data breaches. Just like a chain, these connected cyber-physical systems are only as strong as the weakest link. Policies, processes, and procedures should all be standardized to limit the number of possible breach points in your systems.

  2. Change Management

    Embracing change is the secret to success for the majority of companies. Industry 4.0 is changing the way we do things, merging the physical and digital together. These changes reveal a need to strategize ways to support your employees and empower them with the tools and skills needed for a digital transformation. Putting employees at the center of the change enables employee engagement at all stages, the human factor becomes a major lever for transitioning to Industry 4.0.

  3. Employment

    Industry 4.0 is changing the employment landscape with the need for employees to acquire different or all-new skills to excel in these changing roles. Repetitive task workers will face challenges in keeping up with their industry as jobs are phased out or handled by an autonomous machine running 24/7/365. Education will need to transform to keep up with the demands of a rapidly changing labor market.

  4. Capital Investment

    Industry 4.0 implementation will not be free, there will be varying degrees of the cost involved from cheap IoT sensors used on existing machines or the costly purchase of large machinery with integrated Industry 4.0 solutions. The capital investment needed for some of these larger projects might hurt the balance sheet in the short term but will have a multiplying effect in the long term by increasing agility to market, customer satisfaction, and reducing your costs.

Implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies will cause major challenges in your business in the short term, but the advantages and benefits outweigh the challenges. Start thinking about your Industry 4.0 strategy now or you just might be left behind as more businesses make the leap to greater autonomy and disruption of traditional markets.

Create an Industry 4.0 roadmap.

While Industry 4.0 improves operations through technology, it requires more than simple technology implementation. It necessitates a corporate design strategy. While Industry 4.0 can transform business, leaders must evaluate how it aligns with company goals, corporate culture, and the organization’s core strengths and strategies.

10Pearls can help your business leverage Industry 4.0 technology to transform and innovate for the Fourth Industrial Revolution—automate business processes to scale more efficiently and engage new customer segments through emerging digital technology. We can work with you to design an Industry 4.0 roadmap that takes into consideration your company’s capabilities, priorities, culture, and digital maturity.

Explore how 10Pearls can help you create an Industry 4.0 roadmap. Contact us today.