The 4th industrial revolution is here: Adapt or die.
I first heard of the Industrial Revolution during my history lesson. The Agrarian Revolution in Mesopotamia led to increased food production in the 17th century. We have had significant developments in the industrial and manufacturing space fast forward to the 21st century. But first, let’s understand some basic terms.
An industry is a combination of companies selling almost similar or interrelated goods in the same market. E.g., Energy industry(Oil and Gas, Electricity, Banking industry, e.t.c. At the same time, a revolution brings a new or more significant shift in the way we have been doing things. Hence, the Industrial Revolution is essentially a considerable shift in how production is done to enhance efficiency in cost and output. That is, you move from hand-making products to the use of machinery. Before the fourth industrial revolution, we had the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Industrial Revolutions as illustrated from the diagram below:
The First industrial revolution was characterized by mechanization powered by water and steam. Cotton gins were one of the machines developed. The second industrial revolution entailed mass production and assembly lines, powered by electricity to run the factories. The poster boy of the 2nd Industrial revolution was Henry Ford, who started the mass production of Ford vehicles. The 3rd industrial revolution consisted of personal computers and ICT( Information, communications and technology.) That is the rise of telecommunication industries and the internet.
As an example of some of these revolutions.Met Philip Ngorongo, aka Wa-Njeri, my supplier of maize meal flour. He mills maize flour and does free delivery within Kasarani. How that works well, you can place your water for ugali and by the time it boils, Wa-Njeri will deliver. I recently visited his posho mill to have a chat. Looking at his production is in both the 2nd and 3rd Industrial revolutions. He uses a posho mill machine powered by electricity. He has a mobile phone to connect with clients on Social media or calls. He loads electricity tokens using a Token meter which uses the internet of things.
The fourth industrial revolution is here with us. It is not just about productivity but also about producing better, more intelligent, and scale customization. Imagine designing and building your phone or car simultaneously with your specifications at the exact market cost. Manufacturing will move from factory floor space in China or overseas to closer by or at your home. For example, Wa- Njeri’s clients will soon have household posho mills in their homes. His business model will shift from milling to supplying the posho mill machines, cereals for milling, or servicing the machines.
Other notable examples of the 4th industrial technologies areas already being used
- Augmented reality is an enhanced version of the physical world through our senses, e.g., sight and sound. Areas currently used are the Cinema Viewing, gaming industry. Virtual meetings where you are immersed and see each other. “Facebook” now “Metaverse,” in the next decade will focus on Augmented Reality as a new form of social media.
- Additive manufacturing is essentially 3D printing. It entails printing parts using plastics, metal and concrete. Areas used in the medical space include orthopedic implant devices, dental devices, pre-surgery models from CT scans. In Kenya, houses are now being printed instead of being built.
- Robotics: robots replace or work hand in hand with humans in doing repetitive work.
- Big data where firms are analyzing data to get insights on clients and work.
- Cloud computing and cyber security are relatively new logic systems that provide users with massive storage space.
- Simulation modeling is a way of running an actual or virtual process or a system to find out or guess the output of the modeled system or process.
Like many developing countries, Kenya and Africa need to embrace the fourth industrial revolution technologies to gain a competitive edge on the global stage. All these technologies can be learned and adapted to solve or improve our needs in education, health, manufacturing and agriculture. We cannot afford to miss out on this revolution.