Are you ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?
The world’s biggest hotel company doesn’t own a hotel. The world’s biggest taxi company doesn’t own a taxi. Air Bnb and Uber are simply software tools. In May Ford replaced their chief executive because he could only see the auto industry along traditional lines whilst Tesla, Google and Apple are designing computers on wheels. In 2018 the first self driving cars will appear and around 2021 they will start to become mainstream. In the US the IBM Watson cognitive artificial intelligence computer is beginning to replace legal executives at a basic level as you can get legal advice in seconds from Watson with 90% accuracy as opposed to 70% accuracy with humans. Next year a range of new smart phones will have a 3D scanning facility where you can then scan your feet and 3D print the perfect shoe (at home). Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) Are you ready?
*BCM Advanced Research
Industry has gone through three technological revolutions. Steam power was the transformative force of the 19th century .Next was electricity with the assembly line and the birth of mass production .The third era was the shift in the 1970’s to large scale computerisation. We now enter Industry 4.0 in which computers and automation come together in a new way. In manufacturing robotics are being connected remotely to computer systems equipped with machine learning algorithms that can learn and control the robotics with very little input from human beings. In new “smart factories” cyber physical systems monitor the physical processes of the factory communicating and cooperating both with each other and with humans in real time via the web (internet of things). Embedded sensors are in charge of collecting data from physical assets. Last year Foxconn in Asia, who manufacture the I phone for Apple, replaced 60.000 factory workers with robots . The robots interlink with human operatives. In Germany Trumpf manufacture parts where the part senses what has been done to it and what further needs to be done to it. Factories will be controlled by a Manager touching keys on his mobile phone whilst lying in bed!
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog and the dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment”. Warren Bennis
So is the UK ready for Industry 4.0. It would appear not as much as its competitors. Productivity statistics for the UK show that France and Germany could take Fridays off and still be more productive than the UK. Our level of investment in automation is not at the level of these countries with the Boston Consulting Group pointing out that we are 20% behind China and 12% behind France and Germany in preparation for the Industry 4.0 Revolution.
So ask yourselves is there any way you could digitise or automate your processes that will enable you to became more competitive. Are there disruptive technologies coming along that could threaten your business. Think now. Adapt and survive!
David Shore is Managing Director of Time 24 and Chairman of the Sussex Chamber Manufacturing forum.