Four ways industry 4.0 can revolutionise industries worldwide and improve human decision making

Simon Bennett

skyline with data imagery overlay


Industry 4.0 — or the Fourth Industrial Revolution — is reshaping and rethinking traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. Through increased integration of smart technology, automation, self-monitoring and machine learning, people can focus on other tasks.

But although industry 4.0 began in manufacturing, it is applicable to every company in the world today. This is because the automation of traditionally manual processes and practices and real-time data provision also enables human decision-making to be immeasurably improved — making data decentralised and empowering people locally.

These principles apply across a range of industries — anywhere data-driven decision-making makes a difference. Stores can adjust product placement based on data about local events. Frontline healthcare workers can make decisions themselves rather than relying on consultants. Factory managers can efficiently track and optimise automated processes.

Industry 4.0 is a laser focus rather than a broad brush. It empowers nuanced local decisions rather than relying on slower, less relevant, centralised aggregated equivalents. But enriching people’s working experiences in this way requires a cultural shift: you must address fear of failure and show willingness to experiment and innovate in key areas of impact.


1. Transform the customer experience

Customers are increasingly discerning and time poor. Attention spans can be fleeting. You must hold people’s interest, incentivise and excite them. Information and data needs to be delivered in a high quality and a timely fashion, before someone can context switch, heading wherever they can be satisfied more quickly and readily.

This is true whether you’re an online shopper making a purchase decision or a medical professional in a hospital, trying to save lives. With the application of industry 4.0 principles — the marriage of technology, data and content — you can consolidate information pertinent to a problem and enrich people’s experiences through enabling faster, better and more relevant decision making.


2. Deliver value through application modernisation

A truly elastic application right-sizes to workloads, consuming the resource it needs and giving them up when it doesn’t. This allows for real cost optimisation that delivers best value for money for a business serving its customers.

COVID accelerated this thinking: Winners expanded quickly, using data and information to meet demand and keep customers excited, enthused and satisfied. Losers shrank their footprint to avoid excessive spend. Without end-to-end scalability, some companies found front-ends survived while back-ends were fatally constrained.

The need to react and innovate rapidly won’t go away, and there’s an element of risk in moving at speed with mission-critical systems that demand quality of testing. But the development of modern cloud native applications allows a level of rigour to be introduced or maintained while still working at pace.


3. Enable choice with multicloud

Multicloud is about choice. Not every cloud provider is available in every country and region. Some services only exist on specific hyperscalers — which, for various reasons (including competitive tension), a company might not want to go all-in on.

Customers need to be aware of options, rather than restrictions, and make best use of them; providers like Rackspace and also telcos must therefore respond accordingly. We must be relevant to all businesses a company wants to interact with and provide coherence for multicloud solutions.

This means offering advice regarding what’s available, being very aware of companies’ own sensitivities, and integrating across clouds to bring everything together as a holistic, seamless experience. It’s vital to ensure people have great choices and can make decisions that get them to the right place at the right cost.


4. Rethink data capture with IoT, 5G and edge

IoT, 5G and edge computing have enabled data accessibility to a degree that just wasn’t possible before. 5G radically enhances your ability to collect vast quantities of data from sensors at the edge, the IoT device, for the first time — and filter it to retain only the parts that really matter.

This offers benefits in getting data to decision-makers more quickly, but there are other advantages that aren’t so readily apparent. For example, 5G eliminates the need to run wires in a factory to pick up data, thereby removing human technicians from dangerous situations or negating the need for a plant to temporarily close during installation. In addition, with ultra-low-latency connections, time-critical decisions that prevent downtime or failures can be made more quickly. 

Now expand this thinking further: to fields, cars, stores, hospitals and any place not connected by WiFi. And all this data transfer happens at very low latency, enabling vital information to get to where it can be processed much more quickly.


Make better decisions with industry 4.0

One company doesn’t have all the answers to bring about industry 4.0. But through partnerships and integration, we can make it work. By combining the multicloud, cloud-native application development capabilities of an organisation like Rackspace Technology with a company that can provide devices at the edge and 5G connectivity, you bring together complementary skills, talents and technology; you combine two worlds where the relationship is bigger than the sum of its parts.

But the key theme I’ve returned to time and again isn’t technology nor even innovation — it’s people. We must not forget when talking tech revolutions that at the heart of all this is a human whose experience we’re trying to improve — a consumer; a nurse; a shop worker; a factory manager — whose experience we’re trying to improve. We’re enabling businesses to meaningfully enhance lives through people making better decisions effectively and efficiently, by providing a robust foundation on which they can build.