• Teri Christian

Exploring the 4 Technology Clusters of Digital Transformation

In case you missed our introduction to Industry 4.0 and how we got to this point, you can check it out here. We ended with an important question:


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


We can start to answer this just like we would with any of the previous Industrial Revolutions: understand the tools (in this case, the technologies) that are supporting and enabling it.


For Industry 4.0, those tools and technologies fall into four distinct categories:

  • Connectivity and Computing Power;

  • Analytics and Intelligence;

  • Human-Machine Interface; and

  • Digital to Physical Transformation


Let’s dive a little deeper: Digital Transformation Moves from Physical to Abstract

The first Industrial Revolution leveraged water and steam as its “technology,” followed by electrical power of the second Industrial Revolution that enabled mass production. The third Industrial Revolution saw an emphasis on electronic devices. And even though we were using digital tools like the internet, we were still largely reliant on physical, tangible devices to enable that technology.


This time, it’s different. Industry 4.0 is seeing a major shift away from physical products in favor of sophisticated and abstract mechanisms. Examples of this are cloud-based technologies (compared to physical software and on-prem servers) and streaming media (compared to discs).


As stated in my book, Digital Operations: How to Survive and Thrive in the Industry 4.0 Jungle:


“As the tools change, operating models need to be more fluid and adaptive to deliver quality products and services to customers. We now produce digital products that are sometimes not fully understood until they are delivered. This approach is risky and can cause delays to market and waste. Now, more than ever, organizations need to address all aspects of a digital operating model to be competitive in the current economy.”


Finding Opportunity in the 4 Technology Clusters of Digital Transformation

Understanding is the first step in identifying opportunities in the technologies that are driving Industry 4.0. Once you know the current landscape, you can start to discover ways to incorporate them into your environment and improve the way you work.


For example, 85% of today’s production assets are still unconnected. It’s estimated that by 2025, the number of connected assets will rise to 70 billion from 25 billion in 2016. Machine learning is being explored to tap into the 70% of production data that goes unused.


Many organizations are in the early stages of wearable technologies (human-machine interfacing) that can improve operator productivity.



Advancements in robotics and 3D printing are likely to be among the next major wave of change. Already, we’ve seen the power and speed of 3D printing as companies created everything from ventilator splits to mask holders during the pandemic when demand increased and supply dwindled.


With all of these things in mind, it’s important that gadgets and advancements not be considered a winning strategy in themselves. Organizations must understand and implement operating models that support the need for changes in the culture, processes, and tools to converge and deliver the technical results they hope to achieve.


In my book, I cover Industry 4.0 in greater detail and teach how organizations can leverage these emerging tools and trends to instill long-term change and success. Purchase it here and start navigating the Industry 4.0 jungle with confidence.


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