In our first blog post of 2017, we introduced the idea that the stage is just now being set for the fifth Industrial Revolution, or “Industry 5.0.” It is in Industry 5.0 that we will see advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence (A.I.) and robotics, working in conjunction with humans along the production process. But the concept of intelligent robot and human coexistence is nothing new. It has long been the subject of science fiction, albeit with dystopian outcomes, such as the HAL 9000 spaceship operating system in 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which could defeat crewmates in chess in addition to (spoiler alert) eventually, trying to kill them.
While Industry 5.0 can’t promise a murderous plot, it can promise companies improved adaptability, change-readiness and a responsive working environment by digitalizing and automating their critical business processes while keeping humans/staff at the center of decision-making. In this collaborative environment, companies can realize digital transformation and attain greater productivity, agility and profitability.
If Industry 5.0 sounds too good to be true and the stuff of science fiction, then think again. In fact, according to an independent survey, 85 percent of manufacturers see human-machine-centric environments to be commonplace in their production processes by 2020 – just three years away! Further, the survey showed that 62 percent of executives want to lead their industries in setting this initiative in motion. However, only 22 percent have actually begun to take action to introduce supporting technologies.
One of the technologies that will drive Industry 5.0 is robotic process automation (RPA), which is robotic software that companies can use to capture and interpret the user interface and actions of other applications used in various business processes. Through advances in A.I., RPA software will “learn” to understand specific processes and then automatically process transactions, input and analyze data and communicate with other existing systems. In essence, it will mirror the way humans work with the company’s applications, but faster and better.
Where are the humans in this picture? That’s where business process management (BPM) software comes in. If something goes wrong in one of the RPA’s automated processes or an important change needs to be made in a process, BPM software will kickstart a workflow that notifies a staff member to take a look at the issue and provide him/her all the information needed to make an educated decision that will yield the best business outcomes. So, while the RPA and BPM software take over the repetitive back-office tasks and workflows, respectively, people are still central to operations.
The technologies that we have discussed – A.I., robotics, RPA and BPM – are setting the stage for Industry 5.0 – which may only be three years away from coming into full fruition. Therefore, if you want to be a market leader, rather than follower, it’s time to start investing in these technologies sooner rather than later. The business of tomorrow will be the business of today before you know it.