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  • Writer's pictureOliver Nowak

The Roots of Industry 4.0

To truly understand the meaning of Industry 4.0, I thought it was important to dig into history for in the words of Terry Pratchett: “If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”

Industry 1.0

Industry 1.0 is essentially characterised as the beginning of technology and fostered a rate of change and progress never previously witnessed in human history. This period was simply known as the era of mechanisation. Agricultural efficiency, born out of adoption of machines, made it possible to feed a much larger non-agricultural population but also resulted in a large labour surplus. Combined with the advent of steam power, we saw the first ever seismic shift in society as we rapidly transitioned from agrarian towards industrial society. Rural culture became urban culture, farmers became factory workers and a period of historic economic stability saw an exponential upturn in growth. This growth, fuelled by heavy industry like iron and textiles, resulted in rapid infrastructure changes needed to support the growth trajectory, most notably transportation and communication networks.

Industry 2.0

For all of Industry 1.0’s growth and change, Industry 2.0 was all about consolidation and maturity. Electricity replaced oil and coal as the primary sources of energy resulting in large boosts in efficiency and significant reduction in the cost of energy. Productivity soared as we were no longer bound by daylight. This, combined with the advent of specialisation of labour in mass production, saw continued exponential economic growth and welfare.

Industry 3.0

Next, came the revolution largely responsible for the makeup of the world we live in today – the Digital Revolution. Despite being first invented in the 1930s, it took a while for computers to become powerful, reliable, and manageable enough to permeate general society. Today, each year more chips are made than over its entire history combined. The foundation of these chips are transistors, and it is estimated that since 1947 2.9 sextillion have been produced. Putting that into a more understandable quantity, that’s equivalent to the Earth travelling around the Sun 20 trillion times.

In 2011, Hilbert and Lopez studied the world’s technological capacity to store, communicate, and compute information. They formulated their findings into Moore’s Law style inferences. (For those not familiar, Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every 2 years, so computing power doubles every 2 years.)

Their findings:

  • Machines’ capacity to compute information doubles every 14 months

  • Capacity of the world’s general-purpose computers doubles every 18 months.

Conclusion: Out of the industrial-age, welcome to the information-age.

Industry 4.0

If there was one word to summarise this latest phase of Industrial Revolution, it would be interconnectivity. If you see it as every one of the devices out there housing the 2.9 sextillion transistors is constantly producing data, the language of the modern world. And so begins the race to learn this language, converting these raw 0s and 1s into information and knowledge that drive progress and development through automation, connectivity and even predictive intelligence. From reaction to proaction, rigidity to agility – full end-to-end transformation.

All organisations today, big or small, old or new are all information driven. To stay relevant and to succeed into the future, organisations have to transform their manual processes into digital solutions that can live up today’s increasing demands. Cloud solutions like the ServiceNow platform are rapidly becoming par for the course. To keep up, organisations need to consolidate their data onto a single system of action so they can derive the analytics that help them understand how to behave today to best prepare themselves for tomorrow.

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