The fourth industrial revolution is all about automation and the internet of things (IoT). Industry 4.0 drives innovation and introduces new ways for people to be more productive. It changes the scope of everything from the types of jobs available to how humans perform those tasks.
The World Economic Forum found connectivity has reached a global scale. There are approximately 8.5 billion devices connected to the IOT. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for automation and remote work, advancing the IOT faster than expected.
There are many ways Industry 4.0 is changing business as we know it. The results trickle down to small businesses across all sectors.
Supply Chain Management
Today’s manufacturers get raw products from all over the world. Businesses buy finished goods from other countries. Figuring out how to get these items from Point A to Point B isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when dealing with overseas vendors.
Storing data in the cloud allows you to keep better track of where your goods are and when they’ll arrive. You can also tap into big data to order before you run out and ensure your delivery to your customers is timely.
The cost of labor rises 2.2% or more every year. Smaller manufacturers must figure out how to automate processes, such as packaging if they want to excel.
Industry 4.0 allows you to invest in robots to package items. It also speeds up the process, improves consistency and gives your product a neat final look.
Another benefit of modern machines is you can ensure the safety of workers. Engineers improve the ergonomics of job requirements, helping you staff your factory with skilled workers while ensuring they remain safe and healthy.
People want personalized service and products. Many consumers expect this level of service in the newest industrial age. The only way to customize each item while still keeping costs low is through automation.
You can use machines to etch a name, swap out colors or add elements that make each product specific to the person ordering it.
Industry 4.0 allows you to adapt the product chain through human-machine interactions and smart factory processes. You will be better able to meet the needs of small batch orders without slowing production.
This trickles down to smaller businesses. No longer do you have to order a huge number of an item to get what you need for your store. You can order in smaller quantities and still get the quality and specifications you need.
Better Trained Employees
Finding people who know how to run the machines may be one of the greatest challenges of Industry 4.0. Gartner predicts 50% of organizations lack AI and data literacy skills. If you want to stay on top of technological advancements, you must train those in your employ in the newest methods.
Rather than taking jobs away from those in your factories, help them learn the language of big data. There will be a shortage of data literate workers. Why not train up the next generation and make their job so desirable they never want to leave your company?
The world is changing at a rapid pace. Repetitive tasks will soon be completed by robots and computers. It’s important for workers to learn new skills and adapt to the many changes happening.
Things such as 3D printing, sensors to prevent machine malfunction and automation means production is faster and more efficient. No longer will a batch of bad products make it through and have to be thrown out.
Increased supply and lower production costs also means the prices will be passed down to consumers. The law of supply and demand insists if there is plentiful supply and normal demand, costs are lower.
Big data benefits businesses who will order only what they need and keep cash flow more stable within their companies. When they do need to order, they can see how long the wait time is for a given product and get their request in with perfect timing.
Impact on China
Right now, China has a huge labor advantage over other developed countries. They have tons of labor and the costs are low. However, as things become more automated, expect their advantage to be greatly reduced.
People will need fewer humans to run a factory. The long wait for products to be delivered will likely become less and less desirable. This means manufacturing will be more evenly distributed around the globe, benefiting most societies.
Experts predict manufacturing will move closer to customers and away from China. Automation isn’t something to be afraid of but to embrace.
Expect to see shifts in the way payments get processed. Imagine tying the cost of car maintenance so that whenever the car needs a repair, oil change or maintenance, the entire process is automated.
Everything will become digitized eventually except for very individualist, customized items. Companies who fail to keep up with the times can expect to fall behind the curve and lose out to savvier competitors.
Where Is Tech Going?
The next industrial revolution will be Industry 5.0. Expect robots and smart machines to enter daily life. People will spend less and less time on mundane tasks so they can work smarter and use their time more efficiently. Even industries such as farming, mining and logistics will become more streamlined. We may even see autonomous delivery drivers enter the scene.
The future is wide open. It’s impossible to predict the many ways society might change as technology advances. One thing is certain—the world we live in today will be different tomorrow. Every business will be impacted in some way.