Ever since the earliest humans, our ability to innovate has been core to our rise as the dominant species on the planet. Consider a human from an animal’s perspective. A biped with no fur or scales, cannot run very fast, has no teeth, claws, or fangs. Compared to the dangerous predators our ancestors cohabited this planet with, humans should have been one among the weakest and easiest prey. Instead, we are on top of the food chain, thanks to our opposable thumbs and our ability to create tools and weapons.
But both of these factors are really only the ingredients. They came together to place us on top of the cumulative technological advancement humans have accomplished over millennia. Many of our technological advancements improve our everyday lives such as the Cox internet services, we know and love. But other advancements have a far broader and deeper impact. They don’t just transform an industry; they revolutionize industrial processes. These are what is known as the Industrial Revolution, and over the years, we have had 3 significantly transformative ones. Today, we are going through the fourth.
Understanding Industry 4.0 in 2021
Industries in 2021 are now seeing the 4th Industrial Revolution that promises massive transformational impact. This has been a common theme among each of the 3 preceding Revolutions. Historically speaking, each revolution has ushered in a new era of commercial and economic prosperity. But this massive industrial change can only come at the expense of either discarding older industrial processes or technologies or constantly finding ways to make them much more efficient. However, before we start discussing the 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 as it is popularly known, a small history lesson is in order. Read on for more.
How Industries Progressed with Each Industrial Revolution
Change is a part of human life. Circumstances and conditions change constantly, sometimes without warning. Some can even be on an unprecedented scale like the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to survive, humans had to learn to be versatile, adaptable, and accepting of change. These traits have served us well. However, large-scale industrial transformations involving radically new ways of doing things have always had a much larger impact. The global economy could have never been anywhere close to what it was without:
The 1st Industrial Revolution
The very first Industrial Revolution is what gave shape to the industrial sectors we see in the modern economy today. The theme of this first revolution was radical for the times: mechanization. With steam engines becoming more advanced, businesses began to use steam or water-powered machinery for industrial use. This opened up the doors to improved output and better quality. It also paved the way for new industrial processes to optimize the use of money, material, and labor. The First Industrial Revolution gave us a boom in metals and metallurgy, mining, textiles, and tools. All of these, as you no doubt notice, are related to obtaining industrial raw materials, processing them, or supporting their processing. This was, however, just the beginning.
The 2nd Industrial Revolution
By the Second Industrial Revolution, technology had advanced significantly (thanks in part to the First Revolution). Electricity began replacing steam boilers to power manufacturing plants with more reliability and lower costs. At the same time, production lines could now operate more smoothly and began removing any other bottlenecks restricting output volume. Mass production began to gain serious traction, and better consumer goods began appearing. There was also a massive improvement in industrial infrastructure such as improved availability and networks of roads, electricity lines, gas lines, and water supply lines. This triggered decades of industrial progress that led to the automobile, airplane, and other engine/turbine-powered machines.
The 3rd Industrial Revolution
The Third Industrial Revolution, like its predecessor, was based on the advanced infrastructure and technology derived as a result of its predecessor. By this time, computers, microprocessors, and early networks began emerging. Businesses, offices, and manufacturers all jumped aboard the new mix of robotics, computers, and information networks. This is also where early automation and digital technology started appearing in workplaces and production floors alike. The world began transitioning from electrical technology to digital technology, resulting in better computers and devices, faster networks, and better digital infrastructures. This set up the stage for Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Industry 4.0: What Makes it so Special?
If you thought “So what? It’s just another industrial revolution, big deal!” or along those lines, you are very wrong. An industrial revolution is very much a BIG deal. It is perhaps the biggest transformational cycle in human history and is certainly usually the most significant. Consider everything we enjoy today, from consumer electronics to advanced polymers and fibers, to stronger building materials and healthier living. All of these have built on successive industrial transformations dating back to the First Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0 has, like any other revolution, its distinctive theme, defined by 4 key industrial aspects. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is focused on:
- Interconnected or integrated business processes.
- Transparent and ready access to authorized information.
- Increasing dependency on technical support roles.
- Decentralizing the decision-making process without increasing risks.
So yes, Industry 4.0 is an exciting new time to be witness to. And its impact will likely be seen for decades to come, until the next transformation cycle. Just look at how far we have come since the first one.
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