Posted on : Wednesday 29th July 2020 11:48 AM
Industry 4.0 has become a phrase we love to hate. Used to describe everything from modular automation to cloud computing, the term has come to mean different things to different people. When the phrase Industry 4.0 was first coined at a press conference at Hannover Fair in 2011, few realized the lasting impact it would have on industry as we know it. Not only did it set into motion a series of government initiatives in Germany, in the form of the platform Industry 4.0, it also spurred the rest of the world to take action.
The UK, for example, launched its industrial strategy focused on pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence and renewable energy. The strategy will see investment in many new areas of technology, including a promised £400 million investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and £176 million in 5G mobile connectivity.
Elsewhere, the U.S. has already used digitalization to help itself halt a two-decade-long decline in its manufacturing sector—a period marred by millions of job losses. The Manufacturing USA program has introduced technology institutes that are breaking ground in the research and commercialization of technologies such as clean energy, materials and composites, semiconductors, and flexible hybrid electronics.
A Fragmented Industry
Despite the speed of digitalization in some countries, others are still in their infancy. For example, Italy only launched an official initiative in the last few years and has yet to attract the necessary funding. Similarly, while France has made good progress in the development of autonomous energy-harvesting sensors, it must overcome its technology skills gap before it can create a truly prosperous digital industry.
What these challenges show is the diverse range of journeys that different countries are taking to digitalize. If not addressed, the resulting fragmentation between nations may lead to the stunted growth of change initiatives around the world. To tackle this, truly decisive leadership is necessary to provide a coordinated approach.
Part of the reason for this fragmentation is that successive Industrial Revolutions are getting shorter in duration. Whereas the First Industrial Revolution (which used steam power) lasted around 80 years, the Second (which was responsible for mass production) lasted around 44. The Third (which is commonly known as the Information Age) lasted around 31 years.