The Industrial Revolution of the 21st Century 

Written By: Paresa Noble
Date: May 9, 2022

The human race has evolved dramatically within the past 300 years, and we are now on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution that will catapult us forward.  

It all started in the late 1700s with the first industrial revolution where water and steam power fueled high growth in it all started in the late 1700s when steam water and steam power fueled high growth in industries like agriculture and textiles. About a hundred years later in the late 1800s, we had the second industrial revolution with the discovery of electricity, leading to mass manufacturing and mass production plants In the 1970s is when the arrival of computers fueled the third industrial revolution and drove the creation of enterprise resource planning systems. Today, we are entering Industry 4.0, and it all comes down to connectivity and emerging technologies.

Connectivity and Big Data 

The Internet of Things and the countless data points coming through our existing systems are all coming together to change how we interact with the world around us. We now have the ability to connect devices and machines to gather data that can be used to improve efficiency and productivity.  

In today's digital landscape, digital transformation is not about the technology itself, but what we can do with it and how people can best leverage the tools and resources at their disposal. It’s about how we can best integrate new technology with existing technology, and fine-tune the capabilities of our systems and the skills and expertise of our teams to get the most juice out of the squeeze. The key is connecting all the different data points from all the different resources and creating a story that will help shape a vision of consumer behavior and industry trends coming down the pipeline.

Let's take a manufacturing company, for example. From the various robots on the shop floor to the sensors on each station to the Manufacturing Execution System that helps management oversee the whole operation, there are countless data points that need to be connected in real-time in order to maximize efficiencies. Beyond that, there needs to be a line of connectivity across the rest of the departments in the company as well, so finance can get a glimpse into the health of operations and understand how it might impact the bottom line.

So, what does this mean for businesses? To put it simply, businesses need to embrace digital transformation in order to remain competitive. Those who don't are at risk of being left behind. To run a business in today's tech-driven world requires a new level of connectivity in order for each one of the existing and future systems to talk to each other. The key difference with Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is focusing on the connective tissue of technology and big data. As technology continues to advance, this connectivity and the quality of integration will become essential if businesses want to remain at the forefront of their industry. Industry leaders are those who have been able to see the big picture and adapt their connectivity solutions, and their technology solutions to remain ahead of the curve.

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Emerging Technologies 

The industrial revolution of the 21st century is being shaped by emerging technologies, with automation being key. Businesses are always looking for new ways to automate the non-value-added tasks that many of us see as "busy work". Automation, predictive analytics, and big data are all changing the landscape of how businesses operate and compete in today's world. 

One of the most exciting emerging technologies is artificial intelligence (AI). AI has the ability to transform how we interact with technology and can be used to automate tasks that are currently being done by humans. Yes, this sounds intimidating for many, and the big question that often comes up is whether or not AI has the capacity to take peoples' jobs. The answer? It depends on the job. However, we have to be mindful and aware that the third industrial revolution brought similar fears. When the supercomputer was created, people were worried about their jobs being taken as well. In reality, it created an entirely new sector and profession: Information Technology.  

Yes, there will be some jobs that become automated, and it will more often than not be the analytical and manual processes that will experience that shift the most. Even so, there will always be a need for people to manage these systems. The pivot in work may be from a more trench-work approach to stepping back and doing the job with a more strategic, managerial eye. As times change, our skills will change and the sooner we accept that, the easier the transition will be.  

 

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Robotic process automation is another modern technology that is taking the business work by storm. RPA is software that can be used to automate manual, rules-based tasks. This includes things like data entry, form filling, and other similar processes. RPA is being used by businesses of all sizes across a variety of industries to help improve efficiency and accuracy while also freeing up employees' time to focus on higher-level tasks. 

Other emerging technologies include RPA, virtual reality (VR), and blockchain. It's rare that an organization is going to benefit from adopting all these technologies in today's environment, but it's important to realize that the world is trending in that direction. These technologies are still in their infancy, but they have already begun to transform industries like manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, and logistics. It will only grow.

When you think about it, industry 4.0 is really an extension of the third industrial revolution, but it surely is a complete pivot in a new direction. We are on the cusp of a new era, and the future is looking bright for those who are willing to embrace new and emerging technologies. If you are one who is curious about how you can get ahead of these trends, we welcome you to reach out to us directly. We have been a strategic partner for many organizations going through a digital transformation, and we are always here as an informal sounding board as you optimize and digitize your operations.  

Author:
Paresa Noble
As a seasoned digital transformation, legal, and finance copywriter, Paresa has enabled businesses large and small to share their ideas and develop as thought leaders within their respective industries. Paresa's entrepreneurial agency experience has given her insights into the nuances of business development and the efficiencies that artificial intelligence and emerging technologies bring to the table.
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