The fourth revolution is industrial

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Robot arm in a factory

Until recently, there were two practically separate worlds: on the one hand, the industry, sometimes still very traditional, and on the other, the digital world, which has evolved a lot in recent times. Today, these two worlds have met in Industry 4.0.

Known as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 creates physical cybernetic systems and opens up a whole new field, with many opportunities and some risks as well. In this revolution, the physical world of industries merges with the virtual world and concepts such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, collaborative robots, sensors, cloud computingmachine-to-machine communication, 3D printing, among other concepts of the digital age, are coming to the factory floor.

We are sure that this revolution – established in Germany – will bring gains in terms of productivity, flexibility and sustainability. In this race, the countries and industries that come out ahead will take a big leap in innovation and competitiveness.

The advance brought by Industry 4.0 is so expressive that it has been compared to the other three great revolutions: the first great industrial revolution that brought steam engines to replace manual effort, the second industrial revolution with mass production and the intensive use of electricity and the third revolution with the introduction of automation. The revolution provided by Industry 4.0 goes far beyond automation.

In fact, the fourth revolution is the next leap from automation. For example, a company that has a completely automated equipment still depends on several manual processes for material programming, internal and external logistics, machine downtime for maintenance, adaptation and preparation for new products. In other words, automated machines are islands of excellence within a world that is still manual.

Imagine that from this revolution, machines – through smart sensors – automatically detect possible future problems and, because they are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), they can order spare parts. Not only that, as they are interconnected with other machines, they can automatically rearrange and reschedule production.

It doesn't stop there, another example is the use of Big Data, technology that allows advanced analysis of large volumes of data. With it, process variations – from quality to consumer trends – can be identified quickly and accurately.

The gains go beyond organizations, human beings will also benefit, but they will have challenges ahead. We will have to deal with a change in culture, which will require new knowledge and skills. The need for collaboration and networking will also reach much greater levels than we see today. Not to mention the sustainable results, thanks to the intelligent use of human and material resources, as well as the rational use of capital.

In the face of all this progress, the new industrial concept has received massive support from the German government and large German companies. The the UK-Germany Chambers of Commerce and Industry (AHK) have also supported local companies in this process, in addition to playing an important role in disseminating these technologies.

However, a question arises: does the UK have the necessary infrastructure for this revolution? Undoubtedly, this is still a big challenge, after all, Industry 4.0 will need fast and reliable connections, seamlessly interconnected networks and cutting-edge infrastructure to support this technology.

Another issue or risk linked to intensive digitization is data protection. This is because there will be a large circulation of information from the digitization and interconnection of machines. Therefore, new solutions for data protection will need to be found.

A new world opens up with Industry 4.0, but companies that want to get ahead to enjoy this competitive advantage will have to adapt to the new reality and, with that, face several challenges. After all, every revolution brings significant advances and changes.

Daniel da Rosa is a member of the the UK-Germany Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AHK Paraná) and is CEO of thyssenkrupp's Steering unit for the UK.

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