What Is The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Published on:

March 25, 2021

The world is advancing rapidly as new technology fundamentally changes the way we live, work and interact with those around us. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (also known as 4IR or Industry 4.0) was a term coined by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in 2015 to signal this new digital revolution. This new age is characterised by technological breakthroughs in many areas which blurs the distinct lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.

How did the Fourth Industrial Revolution emerge?

The world has witnessed three previous major industrial revolutions which have harnessed emerging technology to change the way we live and work. The First Industrial Revolution used steam and water to mechanise industry. The second witnessed the invention of electricity and mass production. And, the third was the age of computers and information.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution goes far beyond the basic computer technology that was invented in the 20th century. Advances in areas such as automation, robotics and big data are occurring at an unprecedented rate. It is time to recognise that these technologies are reshaping every sector as old industries transform and new ones are created.

What is the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The aim of any technological advancement is to improve society and make our everyday needs easier to meet. As Klaus Schwab says, ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.”

Increased Business Productivity

Productivity in the UK has been experiencing a period of poor growth for several decades now, yet it is vital to business survival and overall economic success. Bored employees lack enthusiasm for their role and are more likely to suffer from low levels of productivity. We have already adopted the use of computers and machines to replace some of dull and monotonous aspects of our working life. The use of advanced AI and automation technologies in the future should allow even more independence from mundane tasks as these technologies streamline and perform these processes on our behalf. This, in theory, gives humans more time for creativity, innovation and problem solving in the workplace, allowing for future business growth and happier, motivated staff.

Improved Customer Service

In the 21st century we are used to having immediate answers to our problems. We simply open an app and, more often than not, it solves our issue then and there.

When it comes to goods and services we expect a similar response, the emergence of chatbots allows customers to resolve queries quickly and efficiently 24 hours a day. Other forms of technology can analyse your customer service and provide suggestions for improvement.

With access to data and algorithms companies can tailor adverts to their customer’s specific needs and wants, ensuring they are in front of the right people at the right time. This not only allows for more sales but increased customer satisfaction as their problem is solved easily.

Flexible Working Opportunities

Long gone are the days of needing to be sat in the office 9-5. Remote communication and collaboration tools, particularly accelerated by Covid-19, have opened doors to new ways of working. Staff are able to have a better work/life balance as they avoid long commutes on overcrowded trains and the rigidity of set hours. This encourages greater productivity as staff feel less stressed and can adapt their working day to suit their needs. In fact, A report from Peldon Rose, “The Office of the Future”, found that 35% of business leaders felt that workplace productivity had improved during the pandemic.

Better Recruitment

AI tools can effectively pre-screen candidates for interview as it matches their skills and qualities to those required, saving HR hours of sifting through CVs. It can also be used in interviews to avoid human bias.

Advanced online connectivity also enables businesses to secure the best employee for the job, regardless of whether they are located half way across the country or the world.

How do you respond to the fourth industrial revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an exciting time for business and an opportunity for huge economic growth. However, a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2018 found that only 14% of business executives are highly confident that their organisations are ready to fully harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0.

Invest in new technology

To stay ahead of your competitors, you will need to keep up with technological advancements and invest in the best tools to optimise your industry.

Improve workforce skills

Do your current employees possess the skills needed to incorporate the emerging technologies into their role? It is essential to consider whether you need to provide specific training to your team or hire additional staff with these skills.

How will the fourth industrial revolution affect the job market?

It is concerning to think our jobs may be taken away by a robot or competition increased by global recruitment opportunities. Many jobs of the past have been completely eradicated or fundamentally changed and children are learning new skills for the future such as coding and app development.

The World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs report 2020 estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines. However, 97 million new roles may emerge that make use of the new abilities afforded us by robots and algorithms.

What are some of the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an exciting time, bringing about unprecedented change. But, whilst revolutions offer great benefits, they do not come without their significant drawbacks.

  • If we shape our future growth wholly around AI and robotics we risk dehumanising people and questioning our place on the planet. Humans possess vital empathetic and innovation skills that AI lacks.
  • We risk a generation of workers who now lack purpose and ambition, someone who has 30 years of experience on a production line may suddenly feel unskilled and underqualified for the job market.
  • This new technology is astounding but unfortunately, that means it comes with a high price tag. Therefore, it can risk further widening the gap of inequality between both people and nations who can and cannot afford to invest in the technology.
  • AI, robotics and genetic engineering all have great possibilities but they can also be used for destructive purposes.
  • There are implications for data security – the amount of data that is now being shared online is at risk of being hacked and our privacy violated. 

Businesses can survive, and indeed thrive, throughout the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But to do so requires a change in the way we approach businesses. They must turn into people-centric organisations to achieve this. This one of the driving factors behind the Awardaroo ethos, you can find out more about it here.

About Paul Freudenberg

Paul Freudenberg is a business productivity coach and consultant with a focus on operational excellence delivering improved profitability and business performance, and Founder of Awardaroo in 2005. With over 20 years experience in complex project and programme management and 15 years in business improvement, Paul has set the mission of Awardaroo to raise UK Productivity from one of the lowest in the G7 to one of the highest by 2030.