We Have Done This Before: How We Can Use History To Thrive in Industry 4.0

April 20, 2021

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Jan Madsen

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The bad news is that those before us missed opportunities. The good news is that we can learn from them. 

Many of us seem to forget the title of this era: Industry 4.0 / The 4th Industrial Revolution. 

It’s literally all in the name: this is the 4th time something like this happened – and every time, we gained crucial insights about how to use it to our advantage. 

However, even though we are now massively privileged to have gotten to another level of understanding, the human condition still rules the game. 

If you think about it, there’s something interesting in knowing that we are going through a similar situation our great-great-great-grandparents went through in terms of feelings of fear and uncertainty.

But evolution doesn’t stop for any of us, and we have to move along with it if we want our businesses to survive and thrive in the years to come. 

Moreover, although Industry 4.0 looks like history repeating itself – and to some degree, that is true -, it requires a brand new perspective. We encourage learning from the past, but be aware: the future needs more than that.

In this blog post, I briefly talk about the past industrial revolutions and what we can learn from them to help us today in carving out a fresh way of thinking that would allow us to welcome the digital transformation ahead. 

An overview of the past

The start of the industrial era, or the first industrial revolution, happened around the second half of the 18th century, bringing water and steam power to the table. Agriculture quickly lost its place as the pillar of the economy, while the industry became more effective. 

The second industrial revolution came in the late 1800s, close to a century later. This massive transformational era was spectacular. New energy sources – electricity, gas, and oil – brought the internal combustion engine, which is the core of many machines we rely on today.

Finally, the third industrial revolution presented us with automation, tremendously enhancing our lives through new technologies. 

Now, we are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, and the opportunities ahead are incredibly remarkable if we allow ourselves to see them. 

Why do I say that? Because although humanity developed beautifully since then, we still have something in common with those before us: Loss aversion. This is a part of our human condition, but it causes us to miss the real benefits that innovation ignites because we are afraid of the uncomfortable, long-looming feeling of loss.

Why we can’t see the wood for the trees

This old proverb I’ve mentioned before in another related blog post is still at the core of today’s reluctance to transformational changes.

While you probably see the importance of embracing the new technologies we have available, it might tempt you to implement them here and there, thinking it’s a job well done. 

Well… In Industry 4.0, that will not work. 

Experts like Tom Goodwin says it repeatedly:

“This era requires a radically new way of thinking. We need to place technology at the very core of our systems, disrupting every outdated process that ultimately holds us back.”

Tom Goodwin

The fear of challenge often gets in the way of us moving forward. We become overwhelmed by the possibility of loss. It causes us to miss the incredible opportunities ahead of us – improved productivity, performance, customer service, cost-effectiveness, and so much more.

A new horizon

The solution is simple (that doesn’t mean it’s easy): We have to stop anchoring our old ways of doing things

Letting go of old habits is difficult, yes, but you have to decide that keeping your business competitive in the years to come is more important than that. According to Tom Goodwin, the companies that will acknowledge these three essential elements will be the ones that will find success during the digital transformation: 

  1. You can’t apply technology to old, traditional processes. It has to be at the core of your system
  2. The technologies don’t exist separately. The future will present them as a whole, as a network. They will work together to increase the performance
  3. Technology is here to improve our lives. Your customers will have higher expectations and a more intense desire to experience a smooth, professional, fast customer service process.

Final thoughts

The Industrial Internet of Things is your next tremendous opportunity to optimise your entire manufacturing system. Go beyond the surface-level, nearly insignificant improvements and have the determination to grow with a new perspective and new technologies.

As I’ve mentioned before, this process doesn’t have to be done in a day. By taking small steps, making small positive changes towards a bigger goal, you will learn along the way while also protecting your wellbeing. 

We will support you.

PS: This is the 3rd in a series of 5 blog posts on IIoT. You can read:

The 1st post: A New Era: Is The Digital Transformation A Curse And A Blessing?

The 2nd post: Digital Transformation Jargon Made Simple: Explaining The Real Meaning

The 4th post: Why Open-Source Is The Future-Proof Solution For Success In Manufacturing

The 5th post: How Your Company Can Thrive In the Digital Transformation Era

Written by Jan Madsen,
founder of Enuda

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