The concept of Industry 4.0 has been used in business and scientific parlance for 11 years. It is assumed that he first appeared before a large audience in 2011 at the Hanover fair. The term has its origins in the modernization strategy of the German government. On the other hand, the start of the 4th industrial revolution is considered to be 2013, when the German government released a report with recommendations for building a modern production system. Number 4, of course, refers to earlier significant changes in the history of manufacturing: mechanization of production and use of a steam engine (18th century – industry 1.0), use in power plants ( early 20th century – industry 2.0) and automation and computerization (second half of the 20th century – industry 3.0). Thus, in the case of p4.0, we note the beginning of the 21st century and we mark this stage in simplification with the use of the Internet and new technologies with high computing power. But it should be pointed out more precisely, because only the technological definition of the internet would be wrong that the heart of Industry 4.0 bases production on cyber-physical systems, transformation at the organizational level, the introduction of new business models and the organization of these changes in the whole 4.0 environment. The fact is that digitization according to the p4.0 concept cannot be island-wide, neither company-wide nor ecosystem-wide. It must become a coherent process inscribed in the strategies of States and specific organizations.
Industry 4.0, industry of the future, transformation, digitalization
Industry 4.0 has become a buzz term (which also has naturally positive sides), it is sometimes called a simple modernization of a production line, the purchase of a robot or the implementation of a a digital document flow. These are interesting measures, but far from p4.0 if they are not systemic and coherent. Similarly, shortcuts are sometimes used, calling the digital transformation of Industry 4.0, or digitization – and vice versa. Since 2019, the industry of the future also operates in the public space, as a term used in the name of the initiative, Platform of the Future Industry, on whose website we are currently meeting. All of these terms are often synonymous and have common areas, but each means something different.
Let’s start with the industry of the future – we understand it as a wide range of modernization changes, broader than industry 4.0, as it includes both solutions that may not be fully p4.0 and more advanced, for example example today’s futuristic industry 5.0. Industry 4.0, defined above, means a specific stage of change in the history of production development – and very importantly, it is not a point, a state, but a process that never ends with definition. A much broader concept than the two is digital transformation, which includes changes in many areas of life – social, administrative, educational, infrastructural, business, etc. – and not only in industry/production. It may not be an exaggeration to distinguish linguistically, semantically and cognitively from digital transformation – digitization / digitization, understanding transformation as activities in a planned process, linked to profound domain and industry changes. Digitization would then be a somewhat more common and familiar name for any innovation using digital techniques in public or commercial services.
It would be a truism to write that all these processes concern humans, because they work in a factory, or use digital services, or are responsible for the transformation, or at least have to deal with it in one way or another. ‘another. Interesting, however, is the tension between, on the one hand, the fact that for the first time the Fourth Industrial Revolution has so strongly undermined the essential role of man and broken the boundary between human life and the computer system. Of course, to some extent, the role of the worker has also deteriorated during the previous three revolutions. However, we now have the prospect of operating devices and programs that can be more perfect than humans, more efficient and even…independent. Of course, always with a billion limitations and deficits on the side of technology, or the nonsense that artificial intelligence is sometimes controlled and verified by masses of low-skilled and underpaid workers.
But it is in this context that the phrase that you have heard many times and perhaps said: “man is the most important” should be placed. That’s what presidents, managers, change leaders, scientists, experts, training authors say. And they are right. No transformation, even an island transformation (not only digital), can be done without people: competent specialists, efficient organizers, confident collaborators affected by the change, and without people who will then supervise and improve the new environment. But the sentence on the central role of man, as well as the fifth stage of the transformation of the ADvanced MANufacturing (Human-centered organization), must also be related to the fear of marginalizing people in the conditions of introduction of modern techniques. A similar phenomenon occurred during the first industrial revolution – the Luddites (named after Ned Ludd) at the beginning of the 19th century, disturbed by the changes, destroyed the weaving machines. 100 years later, economist John Maynard Keynes wrote about technological unemployment resulting from the faster pace of finding ways to save labor than finding new ideas for using labor. Nowadays, however, we come across the popular slogan that “robots take people’s jobs”.
It is another embodiment of the fear that has always been present in the world, and which is awakening in the context of modernization. In fact, modernity has never eliminated man from the labor market, although it exerts developmental and adaptive pressure on the worker. History and research ignore the extremes of a destructive effect on the labor market and no negative impact at all. Nevertheless, not at the level of representative data, but from direct experience, I have heard more than once from managers introducing p4.0 solutions that the “employment” of robots or computer systems is generally associated with the need to hire new people (not fire people). The transformation projects have increased the efficiency and competitiveness of the company. It’s possible that these specific case studies tell more to practitioners thinking about digitization than the average data on transformation effectiveness.
From my point of view from several years of observing the construction of industry 4.0 in Poland and around the world and the processes of digitization, the most interesting and valuable thing is that p4.0 is also suitable for being transposed into other fields, not necessarily industrial ones. The concept of industry of the future can be easily used by service companies, public institutions, even small economic activities, because almost everything can be reduced to the roles of product, customer, process, organization, value chain. , etc. This means that Industry 4.0 is a universal model. The interdisciplinary aspects are also interesting, i.e. the use of knowledge and models in p4.0 not only from management, psychology, computer science, but also, for example, from biology, physics, communication or philology. But that’s a whole different story. In the meantime, in the next episode of the Industry Guide, we will discuss the visions of Industry 5.0.