The place of Automation and Integration within the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The first industrial revolution emerged in the 18th century and introduced the world to steam-powered mechanisation.
The second industrial revolution brought electricity, the internal combustion engine, and the creation of new mass-production industries towards the end of the 19th century. The third industrial revolution came in the second half of the 20th century and introduced information technology, electronics, and the start of high-level automation. That brings us to the Fourth Industrial Revolution we find ourselves in now. The fourth started early in the turn of the millennium and brought with it new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, rapid digitization, advanced wireless technologies, and big data analytics. These concepts that are shaping the world as we know it are being adopted more rapidly and more frequently every day. The emergence of a worldwide pandemic (COVID-19) can be pointed to as one of the largest accelerators of the fourth industrial revolution. Enterprises, companies, corporations, governments, economies all had to adapt to the rapid changes that were forced onto the world. Especially in the technology space. Working from home might not have been one of the aspects associated with the fourth industrial revolution, but it forced companies into looking into 4IR solutions to keep the doors open and their business relevant. Solutions like the automation of repetitive work and tasks that could be replaced through digital automation and robotics. Communication and integration solutions that could set businesses up to work from anywhere in the world and deliver to its customers anywhere in the world. Automation and integration, key pillars of the fourth industrial revolution became even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Where to start with automation and integration and what tools to use? At First Digital we know a bit about automation and integration and for years have been in the business of helping organisations automate and integrate their business processes. We make use of multiple tools to help facilitate the journey: No Code/Low Code Platforms With No-Code and Low-Code platforms businesses are enabled to design and develop solutions without the need to write traditional “code”. Most of these platforms make use of visual modelling and prebuilt functionality to reduce solution complexity and delivery effort. Reduced effort and delivery time generally leads to more efficient solution delivery. Some of these platforms are referred to as rapid development tools, capable of delivering solutions faster than traditional coding. No-Code and Low-Code platforms and solutions are a great first step for organisations to start or enhance their digital transformation journey. In large enterprises, some IT teams are not able to cope with the growing demand for solutions. No-Code and Low-Code platforms are great at enabling more people within an organisation to start building solutions for themselves. More solutions then get created and the IT team can refocus their priorities. Integration Platforms Businesses continue to grow bigger, requirements increase, and more technology is being used to solve complex problems. With the rapid growth of systems in the world, there is a growing need for all these systems to be able to integrate and communicate with each other. Systems need to integrate across departments, across domains, across provinces, across countries and in some cases even across the earth’s atmosphere. From an information technology perspective, this calls for the need for integration. Now in this context integration is not a small problem that can be solved with a single tool. In some cases, solutions need to be designed and architected to ensure data is integrated through multiple systems. The art is to design these integrations effective and efficiently without introducing unnecessary complexity into the system. Integration also plays a critical role in true process automation. Processes are truly automated once it can span over multiple systems and users and data flow end to end. Cloud Computing Cloud computing is not only the future but should be the present. No organisation can roll out an effective digital transformation strategy without the use of The Cloud. It can be described as the information technology backbone to prepare any organisation for the fourth industrial revolution. Cloud computing is a key enabler and makes solutions like artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning available within minutes if not seconds. It is a key transformer within organisations and is changing traditional capital expenditure to operational expenditure. No longer is there a need to invest in a tin that may or may not be utilized in its limited capacity, now is the time where companies can instantly have access to a larger set of resources and only pay for what they need when they need it. Terms like software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) are encompassed within cloud computing. These services directly extend to and include automation and integration solutions. Thus, adding more truth to the fact that cloud computing is an enabler for the fourth industrial revolution. Final Thought The importance of this revolution can be seen by the actions of President Cyril Ramaphosa when in early 2020 he established a Presidential Commission of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to develop an integrated national response strategy. He asserted that the ability to harness the 4IR rested on the forging of partnerships and relying on industry experts for guidance. At First Digital we have been forging partnerships with our customers to guide them on their automation and integration journey and through that partnership assisting them to harness the fourth industrial revolution. Contact First Digital if your organisation has questions on how to harness the fourth industrial revolution. Charl Coetsee