Don’t panic: Here comes ‘Industry 4.0’

Published on the 30/01/2018 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Deloitte Industry 4.0 report

We’re on the cusp of a new technological revolution and we’re woefully unprepared, says Deloitte. But that’s okay...

A new report of C-Suite executives reveals excitement for the coming technological epoch, currently dubbed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, but says, as these reports so often do, that we’re woefully ill-prepared for it.

The Deloitte report – entitled The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Here: Are You Ready? – looks at how the marriage of physical and digital technologies, in this case analytics, artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and the internet of things, will affect society, work and investment in the coming years.

Surveying 1,600 C-level executives, the report asks just how ready business and government leaders are to leverage this ‘Industry 4.0’.

Now that’s a big question. ‘Industry 4.0’ – surely the buzzword of the early ‘18s – is a term sweeping in scope and something of a contemporary tech-business ‘philosophy of everything’.

“Under the broad title Industry 4.0, physical and digital technologies are combining through analytics, artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create digital enterprises that are both interconnected and capable of more informed decision-making,” write Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte Global in the report.

“Digital enterprises can communicate, analyze, and use data to drive intelligent action in the physical world. In short, this revolution is embedding smart, connected technology not only within organisations, but also our daily lives.”

Yup, the times are a changin’. But with so much social and economic change afoot, how ready are organisations and their leaders to embrace/exploit what’s coming next?

According to Deloitte – and rather predictably one could say – “Not very”. Where the rubber hits the road – i.e. in our ability to exploit, change, adapt with this brave new world – executives are optimist but unprepared.

According to the report, today’s leaders have a problem, and it is this: “While executives conceptually understand the changes Industry 4.0 will bring, they are less certain how they should act to benefit from those changes.”

Deloitte backs this up with the stats, namely that just 14 percent of respondents described themselves as “highly confident” that their organisations were ready to fully harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0.

Similarly, just a quarter of CXOs surveyed say they are highly confident they have the right workforce composition and skill sets needed for the future, despite 84 percent saying they are doing everything they can to create a workforce for Industry 4.0.

CXOs overwhelmingly (87 percent) believe Industry 4.0 will lead to more equality and stability, and three-quarters say business will have much more influence than governments and other entities in shaping this future, yet less than a quarter of those surveyed believe their own organisations will ultimately hold much influence over critical factors such as education, sustainability, and social mobility.

So what do we do with this information? Is it time to panic as the new industrial revolution threatens to swamp us, woefully unprepared as we are?

Hardly. Of course businesses aren’t confident they have the “skill sets needed for the future”. Who is? After all, knowing how the intersection of emerging technologies like AI, IoT and cognitive computing will play out is a rather big ask.

Sure, just “14 percent are highly confident that their organisations are ready to fully harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0”, but that’s hardly a problem. One might even go so far as to say that the confidence felt by that 14 percent is rather misguided.

And the same can be said for the quarter of survey participants who are “highly confident they have the right workforce composition and the skill sets needed for the future”. Sounds like someone knows something the rest of us don’t.

“We believe those who take a broad view will be the ones to succeed in this new era,” said Deloitte New Zealand CEO Thomas Pippos.

“They will see connections between business and social needs; between financial outcomes and innovative strategies; between workforce productivity and people’s sense of stability and well-being; and between integrating existing technologies and creating completely new solutions.”

“In an environment of unparalleled global connectivity it is a time of great opportunity, but also risk.”

He’s right there. But for now we’ll just have to wait to find out what those opportunities – and risks – look like when they arrive.

Click here to read the full Deloitte report, The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Here: Are You Ready?


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