The world is advancing rapidly as new technology fundamentally changes the way we live, work and interact with those around us. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (also known as 4IR or Industry 4.0) was a term coined by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in 2015 to signal this new digital revolution. This new age is characterised by technological breakthroughs in many areas which blurs the distinct lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution goes far beyond the basic computer technology that was invented in the 20th century. Advances in areas such as automation, robotics and big data are occurring at an unprecedented rate. It is time to recognise that these technologies are reshaping every sector as old industries transform and new ones are created.
The world has witnessed three previous major industrial revolutions which have harnessed emerging technology to change the way we live and work. The First Industrial Revolution used steam and water to mechanise industry. The second witnessed the invention of electricity and mass production. And, the third was the age of computers and information.
What is the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The aim of any technological advancement is to improve society and make our everyday needs easier to meet. As Klaus Schwab says, ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.”
Increased Business Productivity
Productivity in the UK has been experiencing a period of poor growth for several decades now, yet it is vital to business survival and overall economic success. Bored employees lack enthusiasm for their role and are more likely to suffer from low levels of productivity. We have already adopted the use of computers and machines to replace some of dull and monotonous aspects of our working life. The use of advanced AI and automation technologies in the future should allow even more independence from mundane tasks as these technologies streamline and perform these processes on our behalf. This, in theory, gives humans more time for creativity, innovation and problem solving in the workplace, allowing for future business growth and happier, motivated staff.
Improved Customer Service
In the 21st century we are used to having immediate answers to our problems. We simply open an app and, more often than not, it solves our issue then and there. When it comes to goods and services we expect a similar response, the emergence of chatbots allows customers to resolve queries quickly and efficiently 24 hours a day. Other forms of technology can analyse your customer service and provide suggestions for improvement.
With access to data and algorithms companies can tailor adverts to their customer’s specific needs and wants, ensuring they are in front of the right people at the right time. This not only allows for more sales but increased customer satisfaction as their problem is solved easily.
Flexible Working Opportunities
Long gone are the days of needing to be sat in the office 9-5. Remote communication and collaboration tools, particularly accelerated by Covid-19, have opened doors to new ways of working. Staff are able to have a better work/life balance as they avoid long commutes on overcrowded trains and the rigidity of set hours. This encourages greater productivity as staff feel less stressed and can adapt their working day to suit their needs. In fact, A report from Peldon Rose, “The Office of the Future”, found that 35% of business leaders felt that workplace productivity had improved during the pandemic.
AI tools can effectively pre-screen candidates for interview as it matches their skills and qualities to those required, saving HR hours of sifting through CVs. It can also be used in interviews to avoid human bias.Advanced online connectivity also enables businesses to secure the best employee for the job, regardless of whether they are located half way across the country or the world.
How do you respond to the fourth industrial revolution?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an exciting time for business and an opportunity for huge economic growth. However, a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2018 found that only 14% of business executives are highly confident that their organisations are ready to fully harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0.
Invest in new technology
To stay ahead of your competitors, you will need to keep up with technological advancements and invest in the best tools to optimise your industry.
Improve workforce skills
Do your current employees possess the skills needed to incorporate the emerging technologies into their role? It is essential to consider whether you need to provide specific training to your team or hire additional staff with these skills.
How will the fourth industrial revolution affect the job market?
It is concerning to think our jobs may be taken away by a robot or competition increased by global recruitment opportunities. Many jobs of the past have been completely eradicated or fundamentally changed and children are learning new skills for the future such as coding and app development.The World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs report 2020 estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines. However, 97 million new roles may emerge that make use of the new abilities afforded us by robots and algorithms.
What are some of the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an exciting time, bringing about unprecedented change. But, whilst revolutions offer great benefits, they do not come without their significant drawbacks.
- If we shape our future growth wholly around AI and robotics we risk dehumanising people and questioning our place on the planet. Humans possess vital empathetic and innovation skills that AI lacks.
- We risk a generation of workers who now lack purpose and ambition, someone who has 30 years of experience on a production line may suddenly feel unskilled and underqualified for the job market.
- This new technology is astounding but unfortunately, that means it comes with a high price tag. Therefore, it can risk further widening the gap of inequality between both people and nations who can and cannot afford to invest in the technology.
- AI, robotics and genetic engineering all have great possibilities but they can also be used for destructive purposes.
- There are implications for data security – the amount of data that is now being shared online is at risk of being hacked and our privacy violated.
Businesses can survive, and indeed thrive, throughout the Fourth Industrial Revolution but to do so requires a change in the way we approach business. They must turn into people-centric organisations to achieve this. This is one of the driving factors behind the Awardaroo ethos..
The role of digitisation in The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Industries are always advancing and adopting new technologies to work more efficiently. The use of these new technologies can help boost innovation, speed, production and react faster to market demands to name just a few.
Nine big advances in technology that are driving Industry 4.0 are:
- The Industrial Internet of Things
- Autonomous Robots
- Augmented Reality
- Big Data Analytics
- Horizontal and Vertical System Integration
- The Cloud
- Additive Manufacturing
The Industrial Internet of Things
The Industrial Internet of Things refers to using the internet to connect all parts of a business. This allows machine to machine communication. We’re seeing it implemented most in factories, where machines communicate with each other through wi-fi to do things like monitor, collect, exchange and analyse data. These insights are then used to drive better business decisions.
Autonomous robots have been around a while. In fact, the first one was made all the way back in 1948.
But as the technology driving them has advanced, autonomous robots offer new opportunities and capabilities for businesses. Most obviously, they can work faster. But they can also work smarter. They can interact with each other (through the Industrial Internet of Things) and adjust their actions from this data.
So for example, old autonomous robots have mainly been used in mass production, which is very helpful. However, if a product was produced incorrectly, autonomous robots would just continue production until a human noticed the error and the company is stuck with the mass produced incorrect product. Whereas new technology autonomous robots are able to recognise errors or mistakes and communicate it to other machines.
Engineers have used simulations for a long time now. But this technology is only just expanding to industry.
There are many possible uses for simulations. From having a digital copy of a real product they can test to using simulations of entire factories to test new ways of working, the possibilities are vast.
Augmented reality, or AR, is a new technology comparatively to most. It’s most commonly known throughout the gaming industry with popular games like Pokemon Go using this technology to create new, interactive experiences for users.
But it also has great use in businesses. For example, selecting parts in a warehouse using robotics. The possibilities are plentiful for each unique industry.
Big Data Analytics
Big data analytics is probably the most well-known technology of Industry 4.0. This technology refers to a machine that can gather information and data to create correlations, trends and more.
A great example of this is Google Ads. They’ve been increasingly moving towards what they call “smart shopping” ads, where everything from bids to keywords are automated. While cynical marketers see this as a move for Google to gain more ad revenue, the reality is their machine learning can process far more data than a human. So what might take a person weeks to analyse and action, takes the machine mere moments.
Big data analytics can give businesses useful insights into internal and external operations, to help them make smarter business decisions.
Cybersecurity isn’t a new technology by any means. All businesses should be aware of it by now. But as these technologies expand and as we increasingly move towards a digital landscape, cybersecurity must keep up.
Horizontal and Vertical System Integration
This technology is mainly used in smart factories, but that isn’t to say it couldn’t have possible uses in other industries as time goes on. We’ll break it down to explain it’s current use.
Horizontal integration refers to the networking of machines and systems within a manufacturing line. While vertical integration refers to the process of connecting all levels of production. So this connects the information gathered at each level through horizontal integration to every level of business and even suppliers or customers.
A good example of this is the food industry. There are many quality standards that need to be met and these need to be checked at every level. Horizontal integration can be used to ensure all machines on the manufacturing line have met a given standard and vertical integration can be used to share that information with all relevant parties. It saves the employees involved a lot of time checking, and double-checking, as the information is shared with all relevant parties immediately.
You’ve probably already heard of the cloud. Simply put, it’s things you can access remotely over the internet. A great example of this is Google Drive. This is a cloud-based storage system. Many companies and employees use it as they can increasingly access shared information, anywhere.
Cloud sharing has big implications for industries. Instead of endless email chains sharing information, new processes can be created so that information is readily available for all relevant parties.
Additive manufacturing is an exciting technology that we’ve barely scratched the surface of. It refers to the ability to produce low cost items in-house.
The most famous example of this currently is 3D printing. 3D printers have exploded in popularity, but for a long time they were too expensive to be a reasonable investment for many companies. As the price has come down, more businesses have invested in them to create their own products in-house.
This has big implications for businesses. It could help with sourcing specific parts, custom orders and reducing product shortages to name just a few.
How Will Industry 4.0 Affect Your Business?
As you can see, the term Industry 4.0 is an all-encompassing term that includes many different technologies and the potential for those technologies is vast. But in general, Industry 4.0 includes interoperability, information transparency, technical assistance and decentralised decision-making.
Every business should be reviewing how these technologies could help them gain a competitive edge and become more efficient. But it’s impossible to give an example of how the technology might potentially help each sector and individual company. So do the research.
Now you know what everyone must know about Industry 4.0, make sure you look into how it will affect your business. Businesses that refuse to invest in new technologies because of the initial cost will fall behind in terms of business productivity and profitability in the long-run. While those who take the plunge now will gain the edge over their competitors that will allow them to out-innovate them for years to come.