It’s a term we have heard a lot – ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ or ‘Industry 4.0’ as it is also commonly known. But whilst we have read of this new era of technology’s potential, are businesses really sure on how to adapt and meet the demands of new technologies?
A recent report from Siemens UK found that advanced and emerging digital technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are projected to significantly boost UK manufacturing. Whilst this seems extremely positive on the surface, how is the manufacturing sector going to prepare for this digital shift and ensure that staff are not lost along the way?
Businesses need to shift the conversation away from what technology will impact the future of work – everyone knows of AI’s tremendous potential for example – to how it can seamlessly be integrated into working life. Businesses are already living in ‘Industry 4.0’ and those businesses that survive and thrive will be those that embrace change now.
Adapting to changing employee behaviour
When people talk of technological change, they aren’t just referring to the ‘glossier’ stuff such as AI and robotics – but are often talking about the simplest of things such as the use of Facebook, apps and other online communication tools.
Ricoh UK’s own research released earlier this year, found that many UK businesses are still opting for a draconian approach when it comes to allowing the use of social media at work. The research discovered that 44% of workers believe that social networks and collaboration technologies will help strengthen and enhance workplace relationships for greater productivity.
However, almost half (46%) of UK workers said that Facebook was banned in their workplace. This was closely followed by the likes of Twitter (34%); Instagram (31%); Snapchat (31%); and, WhatsApp (29%). This outlawing of collaboration will not only alienate the workforce but will dampen productivity. UK employers must realise that the simplest of technologies can empower their workforce and ultimately help with retention and growth.
Cultural change to technological change
Once your business has adopted this new culture of embracing collaboration tools, the next step is to think about what other technologies can help drive long-term growth for your business.
Blockchain and automation technology for example, are already revolutionising the finance sector, making many mundane tasks automatic. The automation of back-end processes should be standard practice for industries with document-heavy workloads.
By automating core and repetitive processes such as the financial close process, this will significantly free up employee time to focus on other more innovative tasks that can drive real value for the business.
For many – technological change such as automation screams of ‘job loss’. But it needn’t be seen that way. One of the key advantages that humans will always have over machines is empathy – humans will always have a role to play in customer services and professions like social care.
Machines can instead be used to not to replace workers, but to better equip teams by processing vast amounts of data or searching records. The key for business leaders is to communicate this effectively internally and to upskill staff now to cope with this change.
Industry 4.0 presents far more opportunities than it does challenges – the opportunity to change the very nature of work in your organisation. Embrace how technology can foster greater collaboration and invest in the new technologies which will create more innovative, insightful and creative roles for the future. Those businesses that flourish will be those that place a people-centric and technology-centric approach at the heart of how they operate.
Sourced by Chas Moloney, director, Ricoh UK