IT in Manufacturing

Why should your business participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

1 April 2020 IT in Manufacturing

Organisations are pondering their level of participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by looking into the technologies and opportunities that these can bring. But what if you don’t participate?

We note six outcomes that will compromise or even close your business.

A client recently asked me the following question: “What if we don’t do 4IR?”

After thinking for a moment, my response was more or less the following: “To go forward, we need to look back at the past. This is not the first industrial revolution. We have learnt that each revolution is about closing a gap. The previous industrial revolution (the one where we got computers and access to the Internet) reduced the distance gap. Suddenly the world got smaller and we could experience the most remote of places. Before that, we closed the power gap. By using machines, people could produce more effectively, and with access to transport, they finally dropped the shackles of living under feudalistic rule. They could move, engage in trade with others and were no longer dependent on their landlord for provisions and services. 4IR is about trust. We are closing the trust gap. Technologies such as blockchain and AI allow transactions to flow more efficiently, and without middlemen. Factors of production will be connected and operate collaboratively to produce the most efficient of output. But there is a first step. That step is data. Without well organised harvesting and structuring of data, it will not turn into information. Without information, we will not be able to trust. The fourth industrial revolution is about having access to information, within your business about what is coming in and going out. By not participating in this generation and exchange of information, your organisation will not be trusted and you will lose.”

Afterwards, I thought of a more practical response as follows:

Dropping out of the customer journey

Should you choose not to participate in the fourth industrial revolution, you are likely to be dropped from your customer’s journey into 4IR. You see, they are taking the opportunity. If you are not available to participate with access to information, more efficient operating models and participating in a healthy ecosystem, well, you will be replaced.

Missing out on operational benefits

Noted already, but can you really afford missing out on more efficient operating models? Will you maintain your production process in its slow and inefficient form? Will your people do the same mundane repetitive tasks? Will you continue to drown under administrative load? 4IR gives us access to the phenomenal opportunity to augment human strengths (creativity, organisation and conversation) with tools to produce more efficiently (think AI, robotics and VR/AR), while replacing the burden of the mundane repetitive work (non-value adding administration, etc.).

Missing out on scalability

Perhaps your mission is not to grow your business. Okay, but can we agree that shrinking is also not an option? Yet 4IR gives the opportunity to scale. Combining the efficiency from operational benefits, improved access to market and enhanced delivery into the customer journey, we can also benefit from real-time access to information that further enhance our ability to respond to growth opportunities. Participation will make you better; non-participation makes businesses less efficient than they could be, or even worse, irrelevant.

Losing key skills to the competition

You have good people on your team, people who have found motivation to help you grow your business to what it is today. Can you afford to let them go? What if you need to cut costs following your key customer having a more cost-effective alternative? Or what if you simply don’t offer the stimulation and engagement that comes with deploying new technology and making positive changes in your business? Can you afford having your best people leave and join a competitor? Double whammy – they win, you lose.

Falling behind the curve (will require massive investment to get back)

By now, I’m sure some will say: “Yes, sure. It sounds exciting and probably worth getting into. But we’ll wait and let others mess around and then we’ll learn from their mistakes.” Well I cannot argue against the latter principle. Others will make mistakes and you will be able to learn. However, many will succeed! They will make significant strides towards improved operations, better customer experiences and engaged workforces. You will be left behind. To catch up, you will need to buy solutions in high demand, pay a premium for access to resources and go through change that will be unprecedented and perhaps too daunting to deal with considering your historic thinking. You will be replaced, or worse, your business will be replaced.

You face disruption

Yes, we’ve said it, you risk being disrupted. Kodak, Blockbuster and Musica can all tell you about being disrupted. They fell behind the curve, perhaps too arrogant to believe they could not fail. Maybe they thought they would check out how others failed, and then act. They ended up as the experimental reference cases in their industries. Only one could act quick enough, divest, reinvest and then repurpose to demonstrate some kind of continuity. It came with pain.

The fourth industrial revolution offers immense opportunities for business and society. Let’s work at embracing these opportunities and actively channel our resources towards adoption and refinement. Else we, as individuals or as businesses, risk becoming irrelevant relics following this period of change. This has proved to be unavoidable during each of the previous three revolutions.

So what to do?

Do you have the required skills and knowledge to benefit from 4IR? Have you engaged an ecosystem of solution providers that can help you on your transformation journey? You need a partner to assess your 4IR maturity and help strategise how you will achieve the necessary cultural change to maximise your potential. If you have not planned your strategy and organisation, get help. The journey is arduous and can be so much more satisfying if you have a clear plan and the resolve to deliver against it.

For more information contact Johan Louw, Aguru Business Solutions, +27 82 711 1279,,

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