The Essence of Industry 4.0 and its Complications

SEAN D. KAWAKAMI, JCCI

Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is altering the way we conduct business, yet its rapid pace alerts society and executives to question whether it signifies a promising future.

Present day was the future in the past. We are on a constant search for technological advancement, but throughout the years, we have encountered the same vicious cycle of disruption.

“Our dreams of tomorrow are disturbed by the realities of today,” Charles Lindbergh said in 1951. Lindbergh became the first ever aviator to fly alone across the Atlantic from New York to Paris nonstop in 1927 in a span of 33.5 hours on a single-engine plane, The Spirit of St. Louis. Once he reached Paris soil, he won the Orteig Prize among other worldwide accolades, cementing himself as a prime figure in aviation history. “In this new, almost superhuman world, we find alarming imperfections. We have seen the aircraft, to which we devoted our lives, destroying the civilization that created them. We realize that the very efficiency of our machines threatens the character of the men who build and operate them.”

During the first revolution, there was a mechanization of steam and water power to lessen manual labor. The second saw mass production and the rise of assembly lines with the use of electricity. The Fourth optimizes the third–computers and automation–using data, Internet of Things and Systems, nanotechnology, cyber wearables, quantum computing, and machine learning. Combining digital and physical technologies, this allows for a holistic, streamlined approach to various day-to-day business tasks. In short, it is a system of bringing together the technological systems and devices in unison to drive and exceed business operations.

Yet even in 1951, Lindbergh knew we must adapt to the fast-changing technology. The same idea reverberates today with Industry 4.0.

Too much technology could throw off
the balance of the workplace.

Seeing that 67% of leaders invest in technology to protect rather than disrupt their business from growth, applying Industry 4.0 calls for a challenge. Shifting the role of technology is one challenge. Too many technology choices is another, along with organizational silos, and pressure to deliver short-term results. In addition, whether to invest in short term versus long term, and a lack of understanding of how to implement Industry 4.0 are among other uncertainties.

What is more, many executives (46%) believe it is difficult to retain talent with the necessary skills when it comes to Industry 4.0.

55% percent believed there was too great a mismatch between current skill sets and those that will be needed in the future. Automation will undoubtedly increase in intelligence, and while two-thirds of executives favored hard, STEM skills over soft-skills, there will be an increasing need for human judgment–that is, adaptability, communication, and ethics.

Humans will always be needed. Businesses agree that self-education and ongoing company seminars and training would help accelerate the formation of a well-rounded, prepared talent system, and empower current employees.

It’s remarkable what machines and technology can do for us. From enabling Lindbergh to travel more than 3,000 miles in 1927 to leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies and solutions as tracking and storing data, streamlining autonomous robotics in warehouse and shipping facilities, and supply chains. Yet the real task at hand is to prepare for it. While centuries apart, the same idea applies in that we must consider how, to be responsible and know the risks at hand. Companies will need to opt for a digital transformation, all the while taking into account the talent, technology, vision, and leadership they currently have.

How about your company? Are you in the midst of an Industry 4.0 revolution?

Sources:

Lindbergh, Charles. The Spirit of St. Louis. New York: Scribner, c1953.

Punit Renjen, “How leaders are navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Deloitte Insights, Jan. 20, 2019.

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