Perspectives on Industry 4.0

By Dr. Mythili Kolluru & Shobna Gupta (Oman)

Summary: The world is facing tremendous change. The most significant change is to understand the new technological revolution. Technological modifications have dramatically influenced individuals and organizations. In this article, the authors illustrate the fourth industrial revolution’s features, implications, and shortfalls. It is also known as Industry 4.0.

It is not only affecting the way we interact, communicate or work but, to some extent, how we live. The scale and scope of the 4th Industrial Revolution are complex and evolving, with unprecedented implications for the world. The First Industrial Revolution- happened in the Mid-18th century, and it was about the invention of the steam engine. This revolution was the transition of new manufacturing processes and from hand production methods to machines. It increased the use of steam and waterpower. In terms of employment, textile was the dominant industry. The second industrial revolution, known as the technological revolution, was a rapid standardization and industrialization phase. The advancement of manufacturing and production technologies enabled the widespread use of technical systems such as telegraph, telephones, and electrical power. This revolution has culminated in the wave of Globalization (Kolluru et al., 2021). The third Industrial Revolution was the computer age and digital revolution; The spread of automation and digitalization characterizes it through electronics and computers. The prominent inventions were the Internet and the discovery of nuclear energy. The founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klause Schwab, introduced the “4th industrial revolution” (Schwab, 2015). The theme of the world economic forum meeting held in Davos, Switzerland itself was “Mastering the 4th Industrial revolution ” (Schwab, 2016).

Later in the conference conducted by the Chicago Council of global affairs, he said the 4th industrial revolution was not an expansion or prolongation of digitalization, but it was much more than that. According to Mr. Schwab, 4th IR combines technologies, or Industry 4.0 is a fusion of physical, digital, and biological entities (Schwab, 2018). There are three reasons why today’s transformations are not merely the prolongation of the 3rd industrial revolution. It is because of its “VELOCITY,” “SCOPE,” and “SYSTEM IMPACT.” The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedents. The revolution is advancing at an exponential rather than linear pace. The big challenge to governments, businesses, and institutions is that they are not sufficiently prepared to cope with the speed of this change because it has no physical boundaries.

The difference between natural and artificial is slowly blurring the lines between physical, biological, and digital systems. One of the main features of the revolution is that it will not only change “WHAT WE DO” but, to some extent, “HOW WE THINK AND BEHAVE.” The possibilities of billions of people connected to mobile devices with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge are unlimited (Mosconi, 2015). If we talk about the education industry, we always tell our students that learning is not complex anymore as thousands of resources are available online. Still, we should know how to use them effectively.

The possibilities are multiplied by emerging technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of things (IoT), 3D printing, big data, machine learning, etc. (Rumi et al., (2020).

Artificial intelligence is all around us, be it a self-driving car, drone virtual assistants, or software that translates and invests. Artificial intelligence is the accumulation, analysis, processing, and projection of information. Hence it will no more be considered valuable in human faculty because a simple gadget will do it better than a human being can do. Many of us will be out of our vocation unless we do something that a machine cannot do (Kolluru et al., 2021).

We must be able to do something beyond our intellect. Human beings have many layers of intelligence. Intellect is a tiny part of it, so future generations must explore those layers to cope with the fast-moving change of Industry 4.0. It will affect our mental space and change our biological functioning. It is required to have clean air, water, soil, land, and energy for all generations. It is not a cure or fixed solution, human beings are needed in all areas, but robotics has considerably improved core functionality, especially in the manufacturing sector. If the work is purely technological, a machine can surely replace human beings, and they will do a better job because it is a repetitive process. Human beings cannot repeat things with the same efficiency as machines for different reasons such as fatigue, nature, time, behavior, etc. So, most factory jobs can be robotic, but managers still need to be human beings. So, the younger generations must think about the professions which are not replaceable by machines.

 Possibilities of Industry 4.0

3D printing technology: Has changed the face of manufacturing today; entrepreneurs, investors, and manufacturers have reduced challenges in terms of time and tools used. 3D printing is used to make tools, toys, shoes, furniture, and even homes. Homes have been built in the Netherlands, Mexico, India, and Africa in less than three days. The carbon footprint is 70% lesser than traditionally constructed housing. Fourteen trees, a company in Africa, has started 3D printing homes. Now people can have 800 sq. feet home faster and at a lower price at about $5000 (Fleming,2021).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has touched us. It is used in speech recognition, problem-solving, learning, and planning. It has transformed the connectivity between healthcare providers and those who need it. In business, it is used for data analysis and customer and employee engagement; in Amsterdam, Electric boats have eased up congested roads and are used as means of transportation—with Robots using AI to map objects and avoid collisions. Robotics dramatically influences our lives at work, home, and play. A robot is an automated motorized tool used in educational institutions, healthcare, outer space, aerial photography, choosing flight paths, and cleaning swimming pools. Ory yoshisuji, a Japanese designer, has developed Robots used in a completely Robot staffed café. The Robots in this café are controlled by physically challenged people from their homes with a mouse, intelligent devices, and a gaze-controlled interface. The technology opens a new opportunity for an inclusive workforce approach. Increased information access through automotive computer devices, digital facilities, and mobile phones. Education and business can now be accessible to people across the globe (Butler, 2018).

New technologies have influenced marketing and the delivery of goods to customers. A drone is a crewless aerial vehicle. It delivers products to customers, searches and surveillance, traffic and weather monitoring, photography, and agriculture. In Israel, drones were used to provide food, and during the pandemic, it is used to deliver medicines and supplies to hospitals. Around a hundred plus drones were in operation daily during the pandemic. Digital technologies have improved the speed of work. Leadership and employees have more free mental space to think strategically and creatively. 4 IR has created unique employment opportunities, and interconnectivity has increased. Innovations have fueled entrepreneurship; digital marketing has helped businesses flourish (World Economic Forum, 2016). Employment opportunities are made with a call for upgraded technical and essential life skills. As witnessed in previous revolutions, advanced technologies such as AI and IOT have enhanced our lives and negatively impacted human lives.

Crapshoots of Industry 4.0

Over dependency on machines will impact humans psychologically and bring about undesirable behavioral changes in adjustment, openness, and emotional balance. Accessibility to training institutions and some sections of the population could be restricted due to price and accessibility. Social media platforms have tapped into customers’ personal information, leading to privacy issues. Powerful technological changes and global digital networks have increased the incidence of cyber-attacks. Industry 4.0 could also create instability in societies, and income concentration and income inequality could increase. The previous revolutions have not benefited all the people in the world at the same pace. 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity which is the invention of the 2nd industrial revolution. Along similar lines, the benefits and opportunities of 4IR may not reach all sections of the world. Studies show that Gini Ratio with Industry 4.0 indicates that new technologies will surpass high-skilled workers and replace low-skilled laborers. Income inequality is likely to intensify in industrialized economies. It represents the confluence of digital, physical, and biological innovations. Industry 4.0 is a fusion of various technologies like the Internet of things (IOT), robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, 3D printing, and augmented reality (AR). These technologies will influence the products and services of tomorrow. The 4 IR is going to bring unprecedented changes and disrupt businesses globally. The 4 IR is like a two-edged sword; it will provide ample opportunities, the income level will increase, and the standard of living will improve, but it will also create income inequality, skill gap, privacy issues, alter labor markets and create psychological disturbances. Like all previous industrial revolutions, this revolution has two sides. As the world scuffles and adjusts to the nuances of this revolution, individuals, businesses, and society at large must perceive the 4 IR as an opportunity and leverage it rather than a threat.

 Concluding remarks

The fourth industrial revolution is transformative and is disrupting businesses globally. It has the potential to bring incredible innovations, increase productivity and improve the quality of life. Yet there are concerns surrounding the impact of Industry 4.0. It could result in a digital skill gap, income inequality, and unemployment. It is a less known fact that there are countries in the world that have still not benefitted from the inventions of the second industrial revolution. Hence the world will know the reach and impact of Industry 4.0 with time. The article presents a spectrum of perspectives on Industry 4.0. All sections of society, industry, and businesses must develop and plan strategies to leverage the advent of novel technologies and meet the 4(IR) challenges.


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