Is Your Technology Stuck in the Last Industrial Revolution?

It's time to stop focusing on the Third Industrial Revolution and start focusing on the Fourth!

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Technology represents the largest uncertainty for which most companies do not have a strategy—yet the right strategy turns uncertainty into opportunity. For example, with technology, Walmart turned the uncertainties of retail procurement and logistics into an empire, Amazon turned customer order uncertainty into the basis of its mission – “Earth’s Most Customer Centric Company.” Google famously turned the mass of internet chaos into actionable information for other companies.

These companies reflect the earliest transition from the Third Industrial Revolution that focuses on digital inter-connectivity to the Fourth Industrial Revolution that focuses on combining technologies across all arenas: digital, physical and biological. Many companies are still stuck in the Third Industrial Revolution, with prognostications of digitizing and integrating supply chains. The problem is that digitization has become the price of entry—nearly every one of the long list of retailers that has recently gone bankrupt was digitized and “connected.”

The next ten years will see rapid progress in a variety of technologies, yet the technology that holds the most promise is 3D printing. 3D printing will transform supply chains by virtually eliminating obsolescence and pipeline inventory, which is why companies will invest quickly to develop this technology. The upshot will be the dissolution of the current leaders of the global economy with their long supply chains that are too costly and unresponsive compared to the new generation of companies that will be smaller, organized for rapid reconfiguration, and far lighter on capital requirements.

Some explain away the failure of digitally connected companies by saying that they weren't connected to customers. There is certainly truth to the assertions that companies fail at connecting in a human way with customers, yet the successful trailblazers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution do more than humanize customer relationships: they blur the lines between the physical and virtual.

It's time to stop focusing on the Third Industrial Revolution and start focusing on the Fourth!

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About the Author

Michael Gravier, Associate Professor
Michael Gravier

Michael Gravier is a Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Bryant University with a focus on logistics, supply chain management and strategy and international trade. Follow Bryant University on Facebook and Twitter.

View Michael's author profile.

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