The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by interconnectivity via digital tools. The COVID-19 pandemic nudged that digital transformation forward a few steps, but entrepreneurs transitioning out of the pandemic will need to find ways to use technology to improve their bottom lines. Here are a few great examples of how the latest revolution has changed how we operate.
There’s some discrepancy among experts about when — exactly — the Fourth Industrial Revolution began. Some believe it started as early as 2011, while others think it has yet to materialize fully. What’s clear is that the COVID-19 pandemic forced every industry faced with significant supply chain issues to embrace technology in new ways while altering expectations forever.
But what is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, exactly? It refers to the use of interconnected digital technologies throughout the manufacturing ecosystem. Solutions like internet-connected machines and data-driven systems give manufacturers unprecedented visibility into production processes and precise control over their operations. Issues related to efficiency, productivity, quality, and consistency can all be solved using emerging technologies. And those same resources can also fuel the engine of innovation, empowering any entrepreneur who’s invested in manufacturing to accomplish what wasn’t possible before.
Whether it’s fast approaching or long been in action, this revolution represents a paradigm shift for entrepreneurs across numerous industries. For manufacturers, this next era of operations unlocks opportunities to do things bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter — better in every way. Here’s what it will look like in action:
- Embracing Digital Twin Technology Will Build Climate-Resilient Infrastructure
Digital twins are highly accurate 3D models of physical systems and infrastructure. Manufacturers can use digital twins to identify changes, quantify risks, and plan improvements in a virtual setting before acting in the real world. The mining industry, for example, relies on digital twins to improve safety and enhance extraction. More importantly, they’re using detailed models of mine sites to make those sites more resilient to the unpredictable impacts of climate change.
According to Skycatch CEO and founder Christian Sanz, drones are critical contributors to the effectiveness of digital twins. “High-accuracy drone capture and the creation of digital twins enable companies and governments to safely, reliably, and more regularly gather this type of 3D data for analysis,” Sanz said. “Prior, gathering the information required to make these decisions was extremely time-consuming and, with a lack of safe access, sometimes impossible.”
Digital twin technology proved crucial when Skycatch helped Microsoft modernize its Redmond campus back in 2019. With more sustainable and less disruptive technology, Skycatch assessed structural integrity and built a blueprint for the wholesale renovations needed at the Redmond site. Digital twin solutions illustrate that new and innovative technologies can be effective without having to be overly invasive.
- Adopting Natural Language Processing Will Improve Disease Diagnosis
As medical information begins to become fully digital, healthcare providers can start to analyze that information to improve disease diagnosis and care planning. Both Amazon and Google have launched programs to help healthcare entities funnel their data in one place and use tools like natural language processing and artificial intelligence (AI) to extract more insights from that data.
That information could help with everything from controlling costs to limiting the spread of infectious diseases. Not limited strictly to manufacturing or heavy industry, the Fourth Industrial Revolution enables healthcare and all the entrepreneurs within it to leverage data for the betterment of everything around them.
- Transitioning to Full Cloud Adoption Will Better Facilitate Remote Work
For several companies, the pandemic proved that remote work could be just as effective and productive as traditional in-person office setups. However, it wasn’t without hiccups. The extent to which companies relied on cloud technology determined, in large part, how well that remote transition went.
Having learned that lesson, companies are rushing to embrace the cloud wherever possible; demand for cloud services has spiked by 775% since the pandemic started. Full cloud adoption allows any organization — manufacturing or otherwise — to untether operations from any specific location and operate efficiently from anywhere.
More than just making companies more flexible, however, the cloud helps spark innovation, create economic efficiencies, and expedite service delivery. During the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the cloud will become the norm instead of the exception.
- Embracing Machine Learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) Will Streamline Logistics
Production processes aren’t the only improvements brought on by connected technologies. IoT sensors and GPS technology streamline logistics and make shipments trackable to their most precise whereabouts. Greater supply chain visibility helps mitigate common logistical hurdles.
Collecting more data about how shipments move worldwide leads to another advantage: Feeding that data into machine learning systems that can predict where, when, why, and how issues might appear and how to solve them. Global supply chains won’t be any less Byzantine in the coming years. Thanks to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however, managing them is becoming far more accessible.
Changes will come quickly throughout the post-pandemic period. The companies best positioned to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution are those that begin adopting and experimenting with new approaches sooner rather than later.
Written by Rhett Power.
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