The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a harbinger of numerous technological changes and advancements. It also wields the power over how societies, economies, and governments interact and collaborate with one another. This revolution, like the others before it, intertwines changes and challenges to how we as humans function and live. Yet, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is no new concept, it’s already brought life to a slew of products and services that give diverse members of modern society the power of remote, wireless efficiency for personal and business functions.
Still in its infancy, the Fourth Revolution is perhaps most exciting for the manufacturing industry. Technology and automation are continually innovated for instant, real-time insights. With the breeding hope of efficient manufacturing acceleration, efficiency, and collaboration, brings forth decreased costs of trade, labor and production will as the doors to new markets open. But with change comes uncertainty – what are the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Here we look at defining the revolution, its outward effects and how manufacturers are responding.
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, is a concerted term for the combination of modern cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems in automation, data exchange, and manufacturing technologies. This revolution is a monumental step forward in the pace and mechanization of manufacturing and production systems.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to drastically alter the efficiency of global organizations. However, it’s not the first instance in our history that technology has impacted mechanization, production, and other manufacturing processes. Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum, compares the striking differences between the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its predecessors, cataloging:
- First Industrial Revolution (1784) used steam and water to power mechanical production equipment
- Second Industrial Revolution (1870) leveraged electricity for mass production
- Third Industrial Revolution (1969) automated production with a blend of electronics and technologies
Like each revolution before it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution holds the promise to greatly impact global politics, economies, and industries. Amid this revolution, manufacturers are beginning to reimagine strategies and business models in anticipation of the multitude of coming changes.
Acceleration, Efficiency, and Collaboration
It’s difficult to fully imagine the impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution when the movement is not as palpable as the revolutions before it. Steam, mass production, and computer hardware technologies are now all relatively familiar things. Yet, the Fourth Industrial Revolution hinges on streamlined data transferring from various points, nodes, and sensors. Blurring lines, even more, Professor Schwab describes the new technology society faces as a combination of physical, digital and biological. As it picks up momentum and speed, what will life in the future look like?
Innovation Enterprise points to TIBCO’s Fast Data technology platform as an exemplum of Industry 4.0. In short, Fast Data blends together intelligent technologies and human insight in real time for more informed decision making. The platform boasts the capability to process myriad business events (think upwards of millions) produced by a culmination of people, applications, processes and systems across enterprise-wide infrastructures in real time. TIBCO’s Fast Data Platform combines cyber (big data), physical (sensors) and technology (applications and software systems) to provide instant visibility and awareness into any instant of an enterprise channel.
This isn’t a randomality limited to software providers like TIBCO. Already manufacturers are managing smart factories with cyber-physical systems layered in that make intelligent decisions all on their own. The Fourth Industrial Revolution readily augments the acceleration, efficiency and collaboration of manufacturing systems and processes. The extension of which will undoubtedly require an arduous effort on behalf of organizational leaders to implement successful systems into current processes. As a result, it has become imperative to further support manufacturers with up-to-date and accurate knowledge of streamlined and automated technologies.
However intangible data is, technology has already enriched and changed much of human life. Most people are unknowingly quite familiar with Industry 4.0. Think closely to the average day. People carry the power, storage capacity and intelligence of multiple computers in the compact form of smartphones casually nestled inside their pockets. Further, the availability of free and inexpensive applications has increased global connectivity. The power and connectivity the revolution has provided thus far will only prosper. Digitalist Magazine summarizes 5 key factors that are changing modern businesses:
- Hyperconnected products that wirelessly collect, store and send data through the Internet of Things
- Supercomputing analytical tools that provide store and interpret Big Data
- Cloud computing platforms that collect and store large sets of data
- Smart technology like wearables, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing
- Cybersecurity solutions that protect data and soothe privacy concerns from varying physical, human and virtual threats
For manufacturers this means real time factory and enterprise level insights, zooming in on granular levels of the supply chain with high-tech sensors. These sensors securely enable virtual tracking of assets, processes, resources and products to optimize and automate supply and demand. As more manufacturers employ smart processes into workflows the amount of waste, energy, and unplanned downtime is forecasted to decrease.
How Manufacturers are Responding
The opportunities of billions of people connected together by varying mobile devices is no longer a far-fetched science fiction dream. It’s quite apparent that these technological opportunities aren’t limited to individuals being the sole beneficiary. We’ve already witnessed a change in manufacturing processes, particularly in the flurried adoption of cloud services. However, the velocity, scope, and system impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are exponentially faster than the revolutions passed.
As technology accelerates and the definitions of quality expand, consumers expect exceptional service at an affordable price. Additionally, the population of smart homes, technologies and cities will continue and with their use, consumers will demand enhancements and upgrades – spawning heavy investments into research and development of automated smart technologies. At the crux of this, manufacturers are looking into collaborative initiatives between employees, partners, research communities and consumers in a diligent effort to best prepare and respond to ever-evolving technologies and their effects on the production environment.
Certainly, there are limitless possibilities to the outcome of this revolution. What are your predictions on the outcomes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?