In 2013, not long after the term Industry 4.0 had been coined, an Oxford study predicted that 47 per cent of US employment was at risk of being automated out of existence1. Since then many pessimistic (and technophobic) accounts have followed suit.
However, they arguably fail to account for one major commonality between all the industrial revolutions so far:
Industrial Revolutions are as much about people as they are about technology.
The Four Industrial Revolutions
Industrial revolutions thus far have not prompted workers’ redundancy but rather their re-organisation, up-skilling and growing role in continuous improvement through continuous learning and day-to-day problem solving:
• The first industrial revolution saw workers moving from craft trades into water- and steam-powered mechanical manufacturing facilities.
• The second industrial revolution witnessed the transition to electrically powered mass production based on the division of labour.
• The third saw the introduction of electronics and IT and the adoption of lean methodologies.
• Most recently, the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, has brought about a surge in automation based on cyber-physical systems.
Industry 4.0 - the end of human labour or a new beginning?
Industry 4.0 presents an opportunity to enhance lean techniques and workers’ capacity for problem solving and driving continuous improvement on the shop
floor. One of the most promising benefits of digital transformation is the possibility to share - and act on - real-time information in a coordinated end-to-end
These new, digitally enabled ways of sharing information can upskill workers to operate, diagnose and fix complex machines and adapt to an evolving environment.
Hence human problem-solving and decision-making, enhanced by the latest technological capabilities, will continue to be at the core of continuous improvement and lean even in the era of Industry 4.0.
The new ways of sharing information
What do these new means of sharing and acting on information look like and how are they enhancing workers’ capabilities in practice?
In our latest e-book, we zoom in on 5 examples and how they are supporting - rather than making redundant - a workforce of independent problem-solvers
in driving continuous improvement on the shop floor.
There are many ways that simple digitalisations can help to upskill operators in preparation for Industry 4.0, as well as ensure an efficient human-machine interface once the robots and artificial intelligence arrive in full force.
Get your free copy of the e-book today and learn:
• What the role of human problem-solving in Industry 4.0 is.
• What the new means of sharing and acting on information look like.
• How they are enabling workers to drive continuous improvement on the shop floor.