Is your business equipped for the fourth industrial revolution?

Employment & Skills | Manufacturing | Technology

Humanity has always been reliant on technical innovation, writes Brian James, CEO of Digital Clipboard. Over the centuries, three industrial revolutions have transformed the way humans live and work. The first took place in the 1700s when mechanical, steam and water-powered systems revolutionised manufacturing.

Meanwhile, the second saw mass industrialisation and the introduction of electricity during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Far more recent is the third, which describes the rise of semiconductors, computing, the internet and other digital systems over the past few decades.

However, as technology rapidly advances, we’re on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. The World Economic Forum describes it as ‘a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another’ enabled by the intersection of physical, digital and biological worlds.

As a technology entrepreneur, I’m excited about this revolution and believe that the latest innovation can drive positive change.

In the next few years, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, robotics, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, augmented reality and 3D printing will continue to advance and impact businesses of all industries.

In the 21st century, technology underpins business. With the rise of cloud computing and mobile technology, organisations have already had to digitally transform in order to stay ahead of the curve and satisfy customers.

However, given that new technologies are emerging daily, they’ll need to take a proactive approach and continue to move with the times.

My view is that the fourth industrial revolution will make or break businesses.

We live in a society where people want to access products and services as quickly and easily as possible. In a survey conducted by Salesforce, 80% of customers said the experience of a company is as important as its products and services.

Another challenge is that products quickly become outdated, so understanding the technologies that will shape the businesses of tomorrow is essential to succeeding.

From experience, I’ve learnt that technology allows businesses to push the boundaries of what’s possible and achieve even greater things.

At Digital Clipboard, we’ve been working with a range of organisations to modernise legacy industries reliant on paper and manual data input. Automation, in particular, enables teams to spend time on more worthwhile endeavors that humans will always be better at.

But of course, there’s so much more tech transforming businesses. For example, AI makes it easier to analyse large datasets and identify patterns that can boost profitability; blockchain provides a more secure and transparent way of managing data; robots are helping manufacturers to build products quicker; and 3D printing cuts manufacturing costs. The list goes on.

If businesses want to succeed in this era, they must embrace a culture of change.

While the prospect of new technologies transforming entire industries and roles sounds scary, it’s incredibly exciting because the opportunities are clearly limitless.

However you feel, there’s no way of avoiding the fact that the world is changing as a result of technological advances.

Organisations shouldn’t be afraid to implement or develop new technologies that promise to transform their industries. But don’t invest in technology for technology’s sake. It’s important to be clear on the things you want to gain from investing in new innovations,  whether that’s enabling increased visibility across your organisation or better understanding customers.

Emerging technologies offer lots of opportunities, but come with their risks.

Being clear on what you want to achieve is key to ensuring ROI. At the same time, you don’t need to jump in the deep end right away. When adopting a new innovation, complete rollout isn’t necessary straight away. You can experiment by implementing it in a specific area of your business and seeing the impact it has.

What’s clear is that the fourth industrial revolution will impact every business over the coming decades.  As new innovations continue to emerge, consumer attitudes and the way people work will evolve at the same time. To succeed, everyone needs to embrace technology.

Brian James, CEO of Digital Clipboard
Brian James, CEO of Digital Clipboard.

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