Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 sounds like one of those buzzwords that’s more focused on big companies, rather than smaller businesses. The ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

But behind the term is a world of affordable but potentially transformative technology. Technology that could sustain your business in difficult times, and help it thrive in the good times.

If you are like many small business owners, you’re still working long after everyone else has gone home. Paperwork, quotes, technical queries no-one else can answer. And then there’s the worry about Covid-19 and economic downturns that will put us under pressure to do more with less.

Sales Pipeline, Cashflow, Competition, Quality, Team Effectiveness. How do you keep on top of all these moving parts?

Industry 4.0 is a collection of opportunities that could have the answer.

Cloud software for every niche

Business software used to be expensive, clunky and over-complicated, usually beyond both the budget and requirements of small businesses. It was also typically ‘one size fits all’ and required lots of expensive development, or external work-arounds to make it work in specific industries.

Today there is affordable, sector-specific software for almost every industry and / or business model. These systems focus on niche industries, and are therefore better suited to the needs of that industry. They are usually available for a monthly subscription, with limited upfront investment and free trials.

This means you can try different systems and find the one that best suits your business process, without committing huge upfront costs to a system that mightn’t work.

Try Googling “software for [your business type]” or ask competitors what they are using.

Joined up thinking

Another principle of Industry 4.0 is joined-up, rather than silo-based thinking. Many small businesses suffer from silo-based thinking.

Industry 4.0 encourages us to step back and look at our overall business process, the “value chain” for the customer, as well as market trends. This usually reveals opportunities to streamline processes and adopt smarter methods and business models that serve customers better, and more profitably.

Combined with modern cloud software, joined-up thinking enables more automated flow of data through the business process, saving time and money.

Internet of Things

Cloud-connected devices are everywhere, and they can help us gather data about processes. Common in factory settings for example, simple devices and sensors can monitor machine performance and help avoid unplanned downtime.

In addition to such sensors, robotics, autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing tools like 3D printing have become more affordable, accessible and connected. What could they do for your business?

Data at your fingertips

We often rely on our gut, on instinct and past experiences to make decisions, and this is often because we can’t get information to support these decisions. Whether it’s locked in people’s heads, spreadsheets, or other silo-systems, it takes too long to assemble data. Industry 4.0 systems organise data, and make it easy to generate reports.

Industry 4.0 for All

Industry 4.0 is an opportunity for all businesses to become more sustainable and profitable, and for people to focus their time and energy on valuable activities.

Rich Dale is CEO of Flowlens, a cloud-based CRM, MRP and Service software system designed for small equipment manufacturing businesses, and dealers. With a single database of customers, suppliers, parts, stock, orders and products, Flowlens provides a joined-up system to reduce wasted effort, and get more time for business growth. Twitter: @flowlens

Industry 4.0 stock photo by serato/Shutterstock