Industry 4.0 represents the ways in which smart, connected technology becomes embedded within organizations, as well as peoples’ daily lives. This revolution of digital and physical technologies gives rise to vast possibilities—but it can also upend the status quo and create nearly as much uncertainty as it does opportunity. A newcomer’s idea can disrupt an established industry, or a broad set of digital data augmented by artificial intelligence and sophisticated models can rival expertise gathered over many years of hands-on experience. As expressed by Chun-Yuan Gu, “This knowledge, which takes an organization decades to gain, becomes more accessible to new organizations with less experience but the right technology.”
In this way, Industry 4.0 also enables organizations to take advantage of network-based, data-driven, autonomous and cognitive digital and physical technologies to create truly innovative business solutions—rather than simply using technology to pursue the same old ways of doing business. In the process, however, its effects can ripple outward to touch everything that organization touches. It is therefore crucial to understand the important connections between business and social needs; between financial outcomes and innovative strategies; between workforce productivity and people’s feeling of stability and well-being; between integrating existing technologies and creating completely new solutions.
Our research has revealed that, overall, executives around the world are in the early stages of readying their organizations to harness the full potential of Industry 4.0. As they progress, there are opportunities to strengthen key connections that will benefit their clients, their people, their organizations, their communities and society more broadly:
• Social impact. Accept that each and every organization has the power to influence, in multiple ways, the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to create a more equitable and stable world.
• Strategy. Take a holistic approach to strategic planning, exploring how core capabilities can be enhanced by new ones to develop new products and services, and create new value for a broader range of stakeholders.
• Talent and workforce. Make it a priority to prepare workers to navigate the age of Industry 4.0 by creating a culture of learning and collaboration, and creating training opportunities—both within the organization as well as in underserved communities.
• Technology. View technology as the most powerful differentiator in an Industry 4.0 world, and invest in integrating new applications that can support new business models. And—most importantly—understand that Industry 4.0 technologies shouldn’t be limited to just one part of the organization; they should be integrated across the organization to better support a broad spectrum of responsibilities and stakeholders necessary to thrive in an Industry 4.0 world.
While the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the power to change many things across a broad spectrum—work, operations, society—one thing is certain: It’s here, and executives need to be ready. It is clear that the old way of doing things isn’t enough anymore, and those who make the most impact will be the ones who embrace all facets of Industry 4.0 and all the opportunities it will bring.