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How your business can take advantage of Industry 4.0

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Industry 4.0, or the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, is causing drastic changes in how businesses operate. While it might have started as a simple marketing buzzword, it quickly became one of the major drivers of change throughout a host of industries – manufacturing in particular.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have dominated the rise of Industry 4.0, and they continue to gain traction. A report from KPMG states that the combined component markets of Industry 4.0 should be worth a staggering $4 trillion by 2020, which highlights just how much there is at stake.

Businesses are racing to keep up, with no one wanting to be left behind. To take advantage of Industry 4.0 in the future, here are five essential factors to consider:

  1. Put data analysis first

The IoT is becoming increasingly prominent in the workplace, and the collection and analysis of data will form the backbone of future businesses. From enabling predictive maintenance in manufacturing, to providing additional client values in professional services, being data-driven will be essential.

Businesses are also holding larger amounts of data than ever before, which means they need to use it in the right way and stop it from falling into the wrong hands.

The biggest opportunity is likely to come from the building of ‘smart factories’, which use data from connected systems in order to optimise their efficiencies and minimise downtime. Manufacturers will, for example, be able to predict when failures are likely to happen by analysing historical trends, and using the insights generated to inform future product development operations.

The more data analysed, the smarter the decisions will be. Prioritising data analysis and adopting a data-first mindset will be vital to future success across all industries.

  1. Break down silos

Traditional businesses are finding that the biggest challenge with disruption today is to successfully adapt to a new way of working. Unlocking the potential of Industry 4.0 will entail finding new ways of connecting different business units and having a complete view of all operations.

This is where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions play a key role, connecting daily activities across the whole company, and providing vital insight into operations.

Manufacturers specifically can have all areas of the manufacturing process – from material and inventory, to production and accounting – integrated into a single database. This allows for greater insight into complex supply chains, and helps manufacturers manage supplier partnerships and stay on top of critical aspects like demand forecasting and production downtime.

Breaking down silos means it’s easier for employees to collaborate, both internally and externally. All the benefits of not working in silos shows why businesses that continue to do so will find themselves falling behind the more connected and collaborative competition.

  1. Think global

Industry 4.0 is not only a huge disruptor; it’s also proving to be a great leveller across industries. Technologies such as cloud computing are giving small businesses access to computing power that was previously only reserved for their large competitors, and increased connectivity is taking globalisation to an entirely new level.

Businesses can reach a much greater audience than before, if they are open to thinking big. With new technologies, very little is out of reach, and companies should look at adopting an international mindset.

This doesn’t only apply to large companies. Even the smallest of start-ups can apply global thinking. Powerful software covering everything from accounting and payroll to payments and expenses, will help small businesses take care of the administrative side of their business, allowing them to focus on other key elements such as growth and expansion.

  1. Develop your workforce

It isn’t news that the influx of AI, automation, and robotics is forcing people to change how they work, and businesses need to be able to support this kind of development.

Firstly, businesses must ensure their workforce has the necessary level of technical skill. This could involve offering regular training programmes to aid existing employees in getting up to speed with new technologies, and also recruiting people who already have the required skills.

The focus shouldn’t be placed solely on technical skills, however. Software is already able to take over much of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that a business has, meaning ‘human’ skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication will be the essence of the workplace of the future.

  1. Adopt an agile mindset

Businesses looking to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution need to understand the importance of remaining flexible and agile.

To stay competitive in this technology-driven, fast-paced world, adaptability is more important than ever. Business cultures must be geared towards productivity to improve customer experience and drive revenue.

While it may sound daunting, there are several ways a business can go about growing an agile mindset, from experimenting with new technologies, to implementing a culture of collaboration, and focusing on customer needs.

The Industry 4.0 era is already underway. The pace of innovation is showing no signs of slowing, and businesses need to act now if they are to take full advantage of what today’s connected world offers.