Preparing your organization for the fourth industrial revolution

October 21, 20194 minute read

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Each of the three previous industrial revolutions ushered in a new age of widespread innovation and irrevocable progress. Today, we’re on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, an era that promises disruptive innovation in every single industry.

As you may recall from history class, the first two industrial revolutions brought steam power, the transcontinental railroads, electricity, and assembly lines. The third revolution, called the digital revolution, began in the mid-20th century and gave us mass production of personal computers, mobile phones, and the internet.

So what developments can we expect from this next industrial revolution, and how can you best prepare your organization? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the fourth industrial revolution?

Thanks to the groundwork laid by previous industrial ages, the fourth industrial revolution (also called Industry 4.0) will expand the efficiencies and conveniences offered by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Powered by big data, connected devices will enhance supply chains, streamline manufacturing, and promote faster, better business communication around the world. From AI, AR, and VR to biotechnology, robotics and 3D printing, this new revolution will also see the development and application of emerging tech that we’re only now beginning to tap into.

But while Industry 4.0 promises plenty of advantages, these digital transformation trends present a few possible adverse outcomes too. For example, although industrial IoT is making manufacturing processes safer and more sustainable—primarily through automation and more insightful analytics—our increasing reliance on connected devices means security against viruses, hackers, and accidental breaches is critical. With so much riding on new technologies, there’s also more at risk.

“The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril,” says the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

With innovation already advancing at an increasingly rapid pace, decision-makers who are too distracted by immediate issues to prepare adequately for the future could inadvertently leave their organization vulnerable to new threats or be left behind altogether.

How companies can prepare for Industry 4.0

As a tech leader and IT decision-maker, there are a few things you can do today to ensure your organization survives this revolution’s breakneck progress.

1. Don’t wait to adopt new technologies

When new technology is released, it’s tempting to watch how your competitors fare before diving in and making the investment for your organization. But waiting too long to update your technical infrastructure can mean losing business to early adopters.

“All businesses must be making a move to be smart, connected organizations,” says Futurist and Author, Bernard Marr, in an article for Forbes. “Or they will soon fall behind the competition.”

2. Diversify your team, and their skill sets

One of the challenges associated with Industry 4.0 is the looming technology talent gap. To make sure you have the knowledge and skills necessary to keep your business thriving through these digital transformation trends, it’s critical that you diversify your team. This means hiring people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences and helping to develop the proficiencies of existing team members with regular training opportunities.

3. Make security your top priority

As an experienced IT professional, you likely already consider cybersecurity a priority. But as our society becomes more reliant on technology for practically every business process, the risks will only increase. Improve your security by investing in more sophisticated equipment, such as highly secure printers, and staying on top of the latest threats.

It’s also crucial that you educate the entire workforce—including yourself. In the fourth industrial revolution, technology will become the foundation of every job role, which means all employees must consider security a personal responsibility.

The advent of Industry 4.0 will undoubtedly shake things up for nearly every industry, and the innovations that will arise over the next decade will make up the foundation of countless advancements to come. By following the steps listed above, you can prepare your organization for what comes next.

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