• Teri Christian

Welcome to the Jungle - Part 1

Life and Death in the Digital Jungle

Technology has a way of making our lives seem like a walk in the park these days. We can order a taxi on demand from our phones, ask our personal home assistants questions about the weather or life's mysteries, and even program our thermostats to create the perfect temperature while we are away.

But technology can also make doing business feel more like a mad sprint through a jungle ― no path, no map, and a line of sight only as far as the hand in front of your face.

Much like a jungle's mysteries and uncharted territories, Industry 4.0 holds many unknown secrets of its own. We've seen its growth spurts before our very eyes, and yet many businesses still don't understand the implications of this digital era. They're not sure how to adapt, whether they need to adapt, or more importantly, how they can prepare for the next phase of digitalization.

New Rules of Engagement

There's a natural ebb and flow in jungle life. Plants and animals die so that others may live and thrive. It's all part of the circle of life, the ecosystem of the jungle.

We're seeing a similar story unfold in Industry 4.0 jungle as physical operating models give way to digital ones. I talk about this in my book:

"Companies are struggling to stay relevant and successful in a world where they make, sell, and service customers they no longer physically see through the delivery of digital products and services. In past revolutions, businesses created tangible tools and approaches to adapt to the change. But to compete in the Industry 4.0 jungle, virtualized, decentralized, and service-orientated tools and frameworks have become more sophisticated and abstract, no longer fitting the business operating models of the past."

The need for physical products isn't wholly dying, but some of the processes in which they're created are.

Take, for instance, the pandemic. Under stay-at-home orders, many turned to e-commerce channels to purchase groceries, entertainment, and other physical goods. But manufacturing became bottlenecked when factories and warehouses shut down. Brick-and-mortar stores experienced longer lead times for products, resulting in lost sales and unhappy customers. Warehouses and factories couldn't share internal inventory systems with their retail customers and communicate inventory expectations and fluctuations, leading to an overall lack of confidence within the supply chain.

The pandemic exposed problems we didn't know we had. But now that we know, we can begin to fix some of these inefficiencies with digital systems that will allow for resilience moving forward.

Developing Industry 4.0 Survival Skills

My last blog series compared Industry 4.0 with the previous industrial revolutions that charted a new course for modern life. While there's still much we don't know about the Industry 4.0 jungle; there's one thing that stands out: The difference in pace this time compared to the previous three industrial revolutions is clear, and the time to act is now (ideally yesterday).

Now, with new waves of technology changing everything from how we communicate, acquire goods, work, and live, individuals and businesses alike must rewire their habits, behaviors, and fundamental beliefs to compete in this brave new world. This means acquiring new survival skills that will help you survive in the Industry 4.0 jungle and thrive in it.

In Part 2 of this series, we're diving into what it takes to break through the Industry 4.0 barriers in this new way of "jungle life."

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