• Teri Christian

Becoming Industry 4.0: How Did We Get Here and Why Is It Different This Time?

The concept of Industry 4.0 emerged in 2015 and has become widely accepted as the Industrial Revolution of modern times. But the “4.0” bit indicates that a lot has happened before the current era that has brought us here. We can learn a lot from history, especially when it comes to the shaping of our society.


My book, Digital Operations: How to Survive and Thrive in the Industry 4.0 Jungle, covers several key details about the progression of industrialization and its impact on the way in which we live. Let’s take a quick trip back in time to explore the previous Industrial Revolutions that have enabled Industry 4.0 to take wing.


In the Beginning: Before First Industrial Revolution

For thousands of years, agriculture was king. The majority of families farmed their own food, made their own clothes, and taught their children from home. Your homestead was your job. Modern conveniences didn’t exist, so families had to rely on their own skills and creativity.


The first Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s changed all of this, forever altering our world views and habits about how we lived, learned, worked, and interacted with others.


Industrial Revolutions 1-3

With the first Industrial Revolution, we started seeing formal, scalable education develop. The effects on our society were far-reaching and set the stage for the next revolution, which we wouldn’t experience until the late 1800s.


The Technological Revolution affected every part of the world. Communication between countries was faster. Inventions like the telegraph, and later the telephone, streamlined communication between individuals, businesses, and news outlets. Major systems like electricity, water, gas, and sewers helped to spur the creation of large, “concrete jungle” cities.


This was soon followed by the Information Age in the 1990s (Industrial Revolution 3.0), where computers and the internet were no longer highly sophisticated business-only tools. Average individuals were able to receive information they wouldn’t have otherwise been privy to. This has eventually led to the instantaneous, 24/7 communication we enjoy today, thanks to ever-increasing internet speeds and lower technology costs.


I share this in my book about this era:


“Humanity has become both closer and further apart. I love this era because the people who were considered different or odd in their small social circles can now branch out across the world and find others like them. They are no longer alone.”


Our Current Reality: Industry 4.0

Looking at the timeline of Industrial Revolutions in this way, you’ll notice a significantly smaller gap between 3.0 and 4.0 compared to the first and second go-arounds. We’ve exponentially gained speed because of the developments of each previous revolution. Or put another way, each Industrial Revolution to this point has enabled the next one.


As a result, many organizations do not understand the implications of Industry 4.0 and what it means for their businesses, now and moving forward.


The big question is this:


What must be done to compete in this virtualized, decentralized, and service-orientated Industry 4.0 economy?


The answer starts in a similar way as though we were answering this question for any of the previous Industrial Revolutions: understand the tools that are supporting and enabling it.


We’re going to cover four clusters of these tools in the next blog — stay tuned!

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