The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR): Is time running out for some?

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a rise in organisations progressing in scaling their Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies within manufacturing across various industries, sectors and geographies. In today’s world, staying ahead of the competition through innovative manufacturing technologies has become even more crucial than ever.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses, it creates a number of opportunities for companies of all shapes and sizes to transform their manufacturing plant environment and shape the future of their end-to-end value chain. By incorporating multiple elements of 4IR technologies such as digitisation, advanced and predictive analytics, automation, Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT); these will provide advantages from both an economic and people standpoint.

According to research by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, 4IR innovations are expected to contribute up to $3.7 trillion in value by 2025. So, what can organisations do to gain benefit? How can they become competitive?

To date, we have seen a number of companies leap ahead in their adoption of 4IR technologies and set themselves as the forefront leaders in advanced manufacturing. Although the opportunity to embed these technology advances in manufacturing production is widely available to most, it is apparent that those who are quick to adopt and implement innovative technology at scale have the greater advantage in the race. A small number of manufacturing sites globally have already gone far and beyond successfully deploying 4IR technology at scale and transforming their factories. As of 2020, The World Economic Forum with support from McKinsey & Company globally identified 44 manufacturing sites from various industries as being 4IR leaders with their advanced manufacturing “lighthouses” (see below image). The Global Lighthouse Network consists of sites from SMEs all the way through to some of the largest global organisations.

Picture2Although the process of successful digital transformation at scale is easier said than done, some key aspects that can be considered in a global digital transformation programme are:

  • Understanding your current manufacturing plant environment (its culture, processes, behaviours) and benchmarking against The Global Lighthouse Network. Leveraging this knowledge from pioneering companies could greatly assist companies in avoiding pitfalls.
  • Faster reaction in the adoption and implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution Technology. Although this is easier said than done, what the Global Lighthouse Network has shown is that an early adopting of 4IR brings competitive advantages.
  • Company workforce is a crucial part to a successful outcome. Empowering a workforce and their 4IR capabilities to fully embrace 4IR transformation through implementing new ways of working or adjusting the organisation structure will bring further advantages.

Walter James’s Supply Chain and Manufacturing team are fortunate enough to partner with some of these organisations continuously in their journey to adopt advanced Manufacturing. A key challenge and focus for Walter James has been to work alongside their leaderships teams in identifying and developing expertise in 4IR technology to help close down the gap that currently exists in the workforce.

By Hervé De Klerck


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