Industrial Revolution 4.0

25 July 2018

The world is on the cusp of another industrial revolution, and it is about time. The 4th industrial revolution (4IR) will combine technologies and techniques that will change the way products and services are produced.

Our global economy has been in decline for the past 50 years and, if it were to continue, within the next decade we would need to get use to a world with no growth.

Fortunately, history has a habit of repeating itself and, if we look back at times of substantial growth, it has always been fuelled by manufacturing revolutions. This occurs approximately every 50-60 years, the first occasion being in the middle of the 19th century with the invention of the steam engine. With credit to Henry Ford, this was followed by the mass-production model at the beginning of the 20th century. We are currently in the final phases of the third revolution that started in the 1970s and brought us automation.

So, what did each of these have in common? Well, to create this huge growth in our economies you need one of three things; more labour, more capital or more productivity. On each occasion it has been productivity that has fuelled the growth.

But what will 4IR look like in real terms. 4IR is not a new distinct system or process, it brings together several existing digital industrial technologies that include:

  • The Internet of Things
  • Autonomous robots
  • Cloud Computing
  • Big Data/Analytics
  • 3D/4D Printing (Additive Manufacturing)
  • System Integration
  • Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Blockchain

The benefits of 4IR technology adoption for manufacturing will be widespread, with smarter supply chains, smarter production and smarter products. This merging of IT with Operational Technology (OT) provides the potential for automation to facilitate massive process improvement and productivity. The resulting innovation could eventually lead to the development of radical new business models and, ultimately, alternate revenue sources, all of which have their foundations in Information and Services.

The 4IR journey starts with optimising existing business processes. Manufacturers will need to prioritise smarter supply chains and embedding smarter production processes into the business. Not only will manufacturing become more productive, it will also become more flexible.

But there are some larger implications. It could create a huge macroeconomic shift. Factories will be smaller, agile and relocated into our home markets. Scale will not matter anymore, flexibility is key. They will be operating on a multi-product, made-to-order basis. In the world of scale customisation, consumer proximity will be the new norm.

This won’t be just a UK phenomenon, it is a global shift, which offers opportunities for UK manufacturers as global supply chains are joined up more effectively. But this global shift also presents a risk if UK manufacturers fail to keep pace. Manufacturers currently feel that UK industry isn’t geared up for the change. Some businesses will need to completely rethink their manufacturing processes and possibly their markets.

Globalisation will enter a new era. The East-to-West trade flows will be replaced by regional trade flows. East for East, West for West. The new model, producing right next to the consumer market, will be much cleaner, much better for our environment. In mature economies, manufacturing will be back home, creating more employment, more productivity and more growth.

Beyond the technology there are also steps manufacturers must take to prepare their business to ensure any move towards 4IR is a success. These include applying visionary thinking as there will be less certainty on return on investment, changing the internal innovation culture of their business and boosting the role of IT and technology in decision making across all parts of the business.

Contact us

The MHA MacIntyre Hudson Technology Advisory Services is helping business prepare for this transformation by ensuring that your IT systems and services are scalable, secure, resilient and ready to embrace the challenges ahead. If you would like to find out how we could help your business, or you have any queries relating to this or any other IT matter, please contact Gavin Davis. Alternatively, send us an online enquiry.