What is 4IR? The term Industry 4.0 has been bouncing around the industrial world for quite some time now, and it’s beginning to gain traction in the business world. We have been talking about how it will change our lives tremendously. Most people think of it as the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Analytics, Augmented Reality (AR), et al. While that is true, how will it affect our lives again? It is also essential that you know what it can mean for your business exactly, for you to leverage the maturation of 4IR to your advantage.
History tells us that every time there has been an Industrial revolution in the past, it has raised the level of income and improved the quality of living globally. Therefore, to understand 4IR, shouldn’t we start at the very beginning? Knowing what preceded it will tell us how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact businesses and why.
The First Industrial Revolution in 1765: It all began with the coal-fired steam engines that powered the wheels of mechanized factory production and accelerated the economy, shifting us from an agrarian to an industrialized society.
The Second Industrial Revolution in 1870: A century later, the world saw the invention of electricity as a source of energy besides gas and oil. The electrification of factory production enabled mass production, which further led to tremendous technological advancements and culminated in the invention of the automobile and airplanes by the 20th century. Industry 2.0 thus earned the title of the Technological Revolution.
The Third Industrial Revolution in 1965: As the rule of three impressed, nuclear energy emerged as yet another energy source half a century later. The era marked the rise of electronics, which automated production, followed by the advent of computers and the invention of the internet. Advanced telecommunications and information technology initiated globalization and the digitization of manufacturing. Thus, it went down in history as the Digital Revolution.
After witnessing the three steps in the evolution of technology, now we find ourselves in the middle of the fourth major industrial era — Industry 4.0.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2015: Dynamically different from the previous industrial revolutions, 4IR is progressing at an unprecedentedly fast and exponential pace. Powered by a confluence of many technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), AI/ML, and big data analytics, Industry 4.0 has presented a dramatic new business model for every possible industry. Business leaders are now gearing up for this revolution to transform their organization, given the potential increase in income and benefits. Manufacturers expect it to impact every stage of the product lifecycle and optimize throughput.
Below are 10 facts about Industry 4.0 for you:
- Industrie 4.0 — the term first coined at the industrial trade fair, Hannover Messe 2011 in Germany, ignited the vision of a new Industrial Revolution and slowly captured global attention. Industrie 4.0 (I4.0) represented the strategic vision of Germany for the future in an ambitious bid to preserve global manufacturing leadership by reaffirming commitment to economic and social transformation through innovation, collective and multi-stakeholder participatory processes, and policy experimentation. The rapid diffusion of the term I4.0 across the globe has positioned Germany as a reference for strategic approaches to harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 
- Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), is credited for popularizing the phrase Fourth Industrial Revolution by publishing an article in the American magazine Foreign Affairs.
- At The Great Reset, the 50th annual meeting of the WEF held in June 2020, their proposal included the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a Strategic Intelligence for rebuilding the economy sustainably after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Industry 4.0 is the era of the most ground-breaking evolution in the history of technology. It is not only fundamentally changing the way we conduct business, but it is also offering new opportunities for entrepreneurs and manufacturers, creating new niches for people to up-skill and progress professionally.
- Over the next few years, you will see a phenomenal upsurge in cooperation between human and machine intelligence, blurring the difference between our real world and the metaverse — the physical and digital worlds.
- IR 4.0 is driven by data, which will be the currency dominating our digital lives henceforth. British mathematician Clive Humby called data the new oil. It is indeed a fitting metaphor. Just like oil data is useless in its raw form, once refined becomes a valuable asset. With the amount of data we generate, we could be sitting on a big pile of untapped wealth. 
- These are exciting times for the manufacturing industry. However, contrary to popular belief, IR4 is not about automation and robot-driven processes. The fact is that the core idea of Industry 4.0 is to make production processes more predictable, efficient, and beneficial to all parties involved.
- A factory is deemed IR4.0 ready or digitally transformed when it operates with data transparency, intelligently connected machines enabled for interoperability, a virtual twin of the physical shop floor, and AI applications that provide end-to-end workflow efficiency and optimized production.
- Industry 4.0 ushers the implementation of AI/ML technologies in workplaces, factories, and companies, allowing micro-planned production processes with real-time insights, wastage reduction, and leveraging data to improve business processes. Industry 4.0 promotes flexible production processes that utilize data for customer-oriented solutions.
- Fei-Fei Li, director of Stanford University’s new Human-Centered AI initiative has rightly pointed out that Industry 4.0 has a human-centric approach even its propagation of the adoption of AI. Digitalization must not be perceived as disruptive, and AI applications are not competitors, but partners in securing our well-being. Technology has always enhanced human capabilities, not diminished or replaced it in manufacturing.
The term — Industry stands for hard work but working hard to resist change is not industrious. Industrial manufacturers and businesses that get on board with IR4.0 today are undoubtedly the market leaders of tomorrow. May the Fourth be with you!