The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Posted by Chris Tithof
Roughly 50 years ago, the third industrial revolution brought digital technologies into the workplace, allowing companies to move away from traditional, analog methods of record-keeping and communication and instead start using computers. With this digital revolution already well underway, the world is now on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, which is characterized by a fusion of physical and digital technologies that create new opportunities for manufacturing, management and government.
The fourth industrial revolution is expected to affect four key aspects of business: product enhancement, collaborative innovation, customer expectations and organizational forms. As a result, the structure of businesses should soon start to look very different from the traditional forms you are used to seeing.
Cyber-physical technologies like 3D printing are already allowing manufacturers to quickly and cost-effectively experiment with new product designs. With no molds and no tooling required, 3D printing allows manufacturers to create a single prototype for the same cost as that of creating the production model. This opens up opportunities for manufacturers to experiment with innovative designs and create custom products to suit the individual needs of users.
The technologies of the fourth industrial revolution allow companies to collaborate more efficiently than ever before. For example, airlines, car rental services and hotels are able to share their availability with travel booking websites in real time, allowing customers to quickly and easily make travel arrangements. By building these kinds of collaborative networks, companies can work together to improve their sales and profits.
The fourth industrial revolution is changing the way customers interact with businesses. Internet-enabled mobile devices allow customers to find information about products and services at any time, while social networks give them the opportunity to publicly voice their opinions of the companies they interact with. Customers expect businesses to listen to them and treat them as individuals. If you run a business in the fourth industrial revolution, you need to be prepared to go the extra mile for your customers.
In the future, talent rather than capital will be the critical factor in production. As intelligent machines take on more roles in production, you can expect to see a job market that is increasingly segregated into low skill-low pay and high skill-high pay segments. People must learn to work effectively alongside robots and artificial intelligences, using these tools to reach new levels of creativity. At the same time, increased levels of communication between people at all levels of the organization have an equalizing effect, giving rise to organizational structures that are less hierarchical than those in the past.
The fourth industrial revolution isn't just affecting private companies. Public sector agencies at the local, national and international level must be aware of the changes that are taking place. If you're involved in the public sector, you must embrace the new technologies today or risk being left behind.
The fourth industrial revolution is likely to have just as big an effect as the previous three. If used effectively, the new technologies can complement the best parts of human nature, such as creativity and empathy, to lift humanity into a new collective consciousness that allows people to shape their own destiny like never before. Embrace the new technologies and work out how to use them to make this vision of the future a reality.
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