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‘Channeling’ Industry 4.0: Offense or Defense?

TBI's Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds

By Bryan Reynolds, Director of Sales Operations, TBI

We’ve all heard the buzzwords “digital transformation” and many of the industry’s most prolific thought leaders have evangelized the phrase and expressed the importance of embracing it for future successes.

Channel Partners Insights logoFrom these digital transformation conversations, myriad ideas have flashed across the partner and customer communities, technologies such as cybersecurity, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. It’s disruption at its finest: all of these new (sometimes misunderstood) concepts that create a “yellow brick road” to bring revenue cascading in.

But, as of late, the buzz seems to be a bit subdued. Is the innovative, sexy idea of digital transformation waning, or is there something else afoot here? Perhaps we misread the potential?

Being wrong about a trend is uncomfortable, especially when businesses have invested a lot in the marketing behind the idea, so I conducted a few thought experiments. I came up with all kinds of pros and cons about digital transformation (DT), most around business process and ROI, but nothing that was necessarily explaining the new “energy” around DT that I was experiencing. Then I came to the random question of “is digital transformation even sustainable?” Looking back in history, all trends fade out or evolve into something different.

Bear with me because I think we may be onto something. The base selling point of digital transformation is that it takes businesses into the next level of sustainability and scalability . . . but does it?

Have you heard the term “Industry 4.0?” Industry 4.0 (I4) is a (generally accepted) term for the 4th industrial revolution; a revolution that we are both in and journeying toward at the same time and one that involves data-driven automation in manufacturing technologies. Let’s pump the brakes a little bit because I know what you’re thinking . . . manufacturing isn’t necessarily the focus for some of you reading this, but there are a lot of convertible concepts that we can tap into, so keep reading.

Industry 1.0 was mechanization, 2.0 was mass production, 3.0 was computer and automation, and here we are at 4.0: the “smart” facilities and systems. All the versions had innovative implications and changed the landscape in some way. If we follow the evolution of the revolutions through to I4, we find that it’s not machine automation in I4 so much as machine cooperation — and it’s at this point where a light bulb turned on for me. Not disruption, but preservation.

I4 companies/customers are going to be (and already are) BIG consumers of the next generation of technology (AI, IoT, blockchain, etc.), but not for the reasons to which we’re accustomed. It’s this reason that we need to “channel” I4 into what it is we do as the standard of how the newest generation of technology will be perceived and consumed.

DaaS – Disruption as a Service

We, as service professionals, tend to always look for ways to add the most value to whatever we do. I’ve spoken and written about how experience overtakes price, drives decisions, and encourages returning business more than anything, but executives marching toward the I4 revolution are approaching this a bit differently because their business problems don’t quite fit the “mold” we’re used to.

First, the drastically changing economies are making it difficult for them to develop fully baked strategies for the future. Deloitte published a survey that found that leaders feel they have too many options from which to choose and, in some cases, they lack the strategic vision to help guide their efforts. Because of this, they tend to utilize the advanced technologies of I4 to protect their positions rather than disturb their marketplace. Emerging tech, although consumed by I4-minded businesses, is used as a tool to preserve current standings as a means to outperform and compete.

This is foreign to most because we talk extensively about how the new technologies emerging are a disruption to the status quo — and disruption equals growth. Disruption is how you beat your competition, and we, as the leaders of these technologies, are providing them with this disruption. But our efforts may be futile if we don’t completely understand the implications I4 has on the other business segments.

Preserve to grow, not disrupt to grow.

While most I4 companies are typically typecast as manufacturing, the I4 movement bleeds into …

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