Tech in the 4th Industrial Revolution and How You Can Prepare
Issac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Masamune Shirow, Gene Roddenberry; to name only a small percentage of the visionaries that showed us what the future and it’s tech would be like. Well it’s the future now and I think it’s safe to say that life is imitating the art that these authors and artists created. Touchscreens, 3D Printers, Advanced Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are some of the incredible tech we have at our fingertips.
Collectively these developments are part of what is known as the 4th Industrial Revolution; A build upon the 3rd “Digital” Revolution that brought personal computing technology and the internet. Now the focus is on new ways to embed tech within everyday life and even the human body. There is emphasis on collaboration and connection, both in how humans communicate over digital channels and how our devices and appliances work together to improve productivity in business.
So what does this mean for the industrial workplace?
According to Darrel Williams, A Regional Director for Vocollect, “Consumers are likely to demand cheaper products, with higher quality and better, faster service”. It’s natural to think that with advancements in tech, produce will come with better quality and a lower price tag.
Facing higher quotas to keep up with consumer demand, companies are now investing in robots and AI in their distribution processes. E-commerce monolith, Amazon, announced earlier this year it now has 45,000 (and counting) robots across 20 of its warehouses. Amazon acquired robotics company Kiva Systems in 2012, and have utilized their efforts to aid in making the picking and packing process faster and safer. This includes robotic arms that can move heavy pallets, to smaller drones that move smaller packages to different areas.
Some companies may decide to opt for a network of store stock rooms rather than a single warehouse allowing them to scale and move with demand, as well as possibly deliver products to consumers faster. Of course, such a measure will require agile tech to be implemented across the overall system to track and filter everything.
In the manufacturing sector 3D printing technology has allowed the creation of prototypes or rare components that were once too tricky or costly to produce. The discipline known as ‘Lean Manufacturing’ is an effort to reduce waste in every aspect on the production cycle as much as possible. Laser-guided cutting tools and exoskeleton technology are being used to a greater degree in the manufacturing cycle, reducing costs and creating a more progressive and comfortable work environment.
Smart tech: keeping track to stay ahead
These advances have allowed hardware and software to be integrated more effortlessly, and have also changed how companies go about creating their products. Multinational conglomerate, General Electric (GE) coined the term ‘Digital Thread’ to describe how they “weave digital capabilities horizontally through our facilities and vertically through their value chain”. Sensors are being incorporated into machines to gather data and to use those insights to enable higher productivity levels. A GE Transportation facility in Pennsylvania has seen somewhere between a 10 to 20 percent decrease in unplanned downtime. Another case was in Florence, Italy, where sensors were able to identify optimum times for maintenance with minimum disruption. The analytics also enabled another production line to be implemented without adding a new shift meaning twice as much productivity for the same cost.
What you can do
All of these factors are being utilized to maximise productivity as well as consumer value. At Ecotile we are always looking to improve our products, both in the production process and in the views of our customers. We create a flooring solution that is both future-proof and adaptable meaning less downtime and a better, low maintenance, work environment long term. Built for the toughest applications, heavy vehicles and machinery can be operated with confidence as our tiles are more than capable of dealing with continuous heavy duty usage. We also offer ESD (electro-static dissipative) tiles. These are made with stainless steel fibres that collect and transport electrostatic energy via a conductive grid safely into the earth. Essential for anyone working with combustible materials or sensitive electronic components.
The tiles are 100% recyclable with a projected lifespan of 20 years. Once they reach the end of their life cycle we will remove them free of charge, and recycle them to create the next generation of Ecotile.
Lucinda O’Reilly, Exports & Marketing Director is an integral part of the team that has grown Ecotile Flooring in to the successful manufacturing business it is today. Over the last 20 years she has successfully employed her skills in sales and marketing to ensure Ecotile Flooring is recognised as the market leading manufacturer of PVC interlocking floor tiles. Lucinda’s love of travel means the Ecotile brand is dominant all over Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and India.
To ensure compliance with export regulations Lucinda has gained accreditations from the Chamber of Commerce in Incoterms & Export Licence Controls and Export Procedures & Documentation and has completed the Institute of Export course on Incoterms 2020. She is a member of the Institute of Export, was a finalist in the Natwest Open to Export competition in 2018 and was instrumental in Ecotile Flooring winning a Queen’s Enterprise for International Trade in 2017. Lucinda has recently been interviewed by BBC News and Channel 4 News for her insights on Brexit and is an Export Champion for the Department for International Trade.