The simple answer to "Why should businesses adopt Industry 4.0 technologies" is that Industry 4.0, the 4th Industrial Revolution, is not a concept that will come in the future; it's here right now. If you don't adopt these technologies that result in being more productive, create less waste, and that improve products and customer service, it won't be long before your business loses relevancy.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution refers to the new stage of transformative technologies changing industry—networked cyber and physical systems. You might recall the other revolutions; steam and water power, electricity and assembly lines, and computerization that metamorphosized industry. The 4th Industrial Revolution builds on the 3rd Industrial Revolution of computerization, but now computers mingle with the physical, digital, and biological worlds to create smart machines, interconnected devices, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. From interconnected supply chains to intelligent robots and predictive maintenance, this new revolution requires that everyone rethink their businesses. It will impact all disciplines, economies, and industries.
Benefits of Industry 4.0 Technologies
While the actual use cases of Industry 4.0 technologies might be different for various companies, the benefits fall into similar buckets. These benefits apply to every company in every industry, so it’s critical that you begin to adopt, if you haven’t already done so, some part of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Not only are companies able to manufacture products more efficiently, but they can also keep systems running thanks to sensors on machines that provide predictive maintenance (capable of sending alerts of potential equipment failure so humans can intervene before factory lines need to be down). By gathering and processing big data, machines can identify opportunities to improve operations, troubleshoot issues quicker than humans are able to process the same information. The reality of real-time analysis and communication throughout operations enables quicker optimization of the entire system.
Reduce Operating Costs
Industry 4.0 technologies make agile processes more ubiquitous and create opportunities for more customization without incredible costs. Real-time quality control reduces rework and waste. We already mentioned the efficiencies of predictive maintenance, but there are also significant cost savings with that as well. Thanks to 3D printers, costs for engineering and creating prototypes is reduced while there’s a boost in rapid innovation. Simply having higher automation within your organization saves valuable time and money.
If you’re able to create the products the consumer wants and get them to the market faster, your revenues will grow. Industry 4.0 technologies help companies do just that. Consumers are expecting to get what they want “anytime-anywhere” and if you can provide that—and you can with the assistance of intelligent machines—growth will result. Additionally, better information flow courtesy of the analysis and sharing of high volumes of data improve communication, service and support throughout the entire organization.
Changes the Business Model
Industry 4.0 changes the industrial paradigm companies operate from and therefore changes how your company creates value for its customers. The enormous amounts of data tracked and collected can create insights on ways to create new and smarter products and services. It's causing businesses to add services to their products (product-service system), making a product's lifecycle more holistic. Today and tomorrow's business model needs to be holistic, fast, and flexible using Industry 4.0 technologies to make that possible. Innovation is propelled by using the power of smart machines in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The insights made possible by the 4th Industrial Revolution can shine a light on improvement in every facet of the business, including the customer experience. A business powered with Industry 4.0 technologies can be responsive to its customers in a way that traditional businesses cannot. The customer experience and customer engagement can be enhanced by deploying virtual and augmented reality solutions and other Industry 4.0 technologies.
If the cost and complexity of introducing Industry 4.0 technologies to your business have caused you to hesitate to do so, it’s time to reconsider. Artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT), robotics, big data, and other technologies collectively transforming the industry as part of the 4th Industrial Revolution catapults productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and more.
It’s no longer a matter of if you will add these technologies to your operation; it's a matter of survival and competitive advantage.
Where to go from here
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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.