We are currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which includes the data and technology used to link people and machines globally. 4IR includes everything from artificial intelligence (AI) to 5G to smart infrastructure.
In a study by the Center for Sustainable Development, Southern Santa Caterina, Brazil, scientists took an in-depth look at how COVID-19 ushered in the 4IR faster than expected. With more people forced to work from home, businesses had to embrace technologies they'd not yet considered. Advances in healthcare saw some of the biggest changes, including telemedicine.
The impact of the digital revolution accelerated in the past year in a number of ways, impacting nearly every sector of society. However, it impacted four industries more than others in significant and lasting ways.
What Is Digital Transformation?
Technology creates change in three major business areas, including operations, customer interactions and business processes. The digital revolution impacts each of these areas in different ways and across different sectors. Automation and connectivity are the most significant components of the 4IR.
Let’s study four industries most heavily impacted by changes in technology in recent years.
Some of the fastest growing technologies occur in the medical field. The impact of the pandemic forced doctor’s offices to embrace telemedicine. Many were reluctant prior to the coronavirus outbreak, resisting the costs associated with upgrading software.
However, third-party vendors are on the rise to meet the growing demand. The digital revolution helped usher in better processes for patients. Rather than waiting in a room for an hour, they now receive a text message when it’s time to come inside and can check in without talking to another person via an SMS message or website.
The digital revolution also sped up connectivity speeds through 5G and offered higher resolution screens. Better smartphones allowed users to tap into video conferencing for health care that may not have been possible before these advances.
Better technology also means data is more carefully tracked and accessible, with your permission, to specialists as well as your primary care provider. Worries about prescription drugs interacting poorly with one another or losing track of your baseline test results disappear thanks to cloud-based technology and better software and backup systems.
Oil & Gas
Digital technology impacts the oil and gas industry in a variety of ways, including better communication between B2B businesses and improving working conditions through automation.
In a survey of B2B buyers, researchers found more than 50% prefer less interaction with sales reps and to gather info via a digital content platform. Although your sales team still has a role to play in closing sales and following up with clients, it’s essential to provide enough informational content to allow users to do their own research.
Automation is also improving working conditions in an industry sometimes rife with risk. Some of the ways digital solutions improved safety and allowed for remote work included running diagnostics virtually, assessing repair and maintenance issues automatically and only dispatching technicians when absolutely needed and reducing the number of employees on site.
Technology also helps improve supply chain management and reduce costs while speeding up delivery. The more efficiently a company operates, the more profit they’ll see.
One industry already in disarray is restaurants. Often, food establishments operate on razor-thin margins. There is a shortage of skilled workers and people aren’t fully back to dining out the way they did pre-pandemic. In some areas, companies must maintain social distancing guidelines, creating long waits and less volume.
Enter automation to solve many of those issues. If you can’t find someone to stand behind the counter and take orders, you put in a machine and allow customers to place their own order and pay on the spot. While not every role in a restaurant can be replaced with a machine, many can.
Opponents to the advances in tech worry about loss of jobs and where workers without special skills might find employment. However, the shift seems to be toward humans handling other business operations, such as ensuring customers are happy and double-checking accuracy of orders.
Better software also ensures point of sale (POS) processes to avoid mistakes in order placing, ensure the perfect amount of food gets orders without waste and tracks what dishes result in profit and which ones should be cut from the menu. You can seek the most cost-effective payment processing solutions and save a fortune on POS system fees.
Big Box Retailers
Have you noticed the recent trend toward fewer live cashier lanes open and more self-checkout stands? Walmart, Kroger and Meijer all expanded the number of self-checkout lanes in recent months. With six or eight stations, one worker can oversee any issues customers have and monitor things, rather than the store hiring eight cashiers.
In addition to more automation on checkout, retailers also install pickup stations where the person orders online and pickup in store. Walmart unveiled an automated machine where the user punches in their order number and the item dispenses like a giant vending machine.
Behind the scenes, retail stores tap into better data management to see how much inventory they need, automatically reorder popular products and track customer relationships. They can even track how fast items ship for online orders and improve processes to speed things up. Amazon’s two-day delivery standard forced other retailers to follow suit and get items out quickly and for free with a certain order amount.
Everyone Is Impacted
In some way, every industry and every person on the planet sees changes from advances in AI, cloud-based computing, high-speed internet and big data. Even the local mom-and-pop store may need to implement new software to keep up with the times.
Technology accelerates each year, so there’s no telling where AI and automation might take us in the future. Pay attention to what the four types of companies listed here tap into and you’ll get a glimmer of what’s coming for other industries. Embrace the things that work for your brand and help you operate more efficiently.