Derek discusses how some of the concepts of the 4th industrial revolution can be applied to industrial businesses of all size, now, and with low risk.

Systems – are you sorted?

When I first speak to a potential customer, often the first response is – “we have systems thanks, we’re well covered.”

They’re sort of correct of course.  Depending on the size they’ll at least have an accounting system.  If they are a specialist business, such as field service, they’ll have a suitable system to match resources to customer requirements, etc.  In warehousing and distribution, they’ll have a warehouse management system (WMS) and a customer relationship management (CRM) system, etc.  Everywhere, systems designed and implemented by clever people, creating a lot of data.

Yet the 4th industrial revolution promises a step change in productivity and quality akin to the arrival of steam (1st), mass production and electricity (2nd), and IT and robotics (3rd).  It will affect society as a whole, not just manufacturing.  Clearly staying the same won’t deliver this.

Alongside the extension of robotics and the likes of nano technology, data will be at the heart of each step forward.  Machines connected to the internet will produce vast quantities of data, while tools such as Artificial Intelligence will sift it, allowing insights that will take operations to a new level.

The 4th industrial revolution is underway, and within the business population there are innovators and early adopters and those that follow.  It’s worth thinking about as we go into 2022.

Data – two types

The use of data will be advanced in two areas.  The first will be extending the aggregation of data (including more cross-company data) to provide insights that allow opportunities to be spotted.  The second area will be connecting companies for “precise” data exchange.  This is data to fulfil specific orders, collaboration on specific quality issues, etc.

New tech such as “Internet of Things”, for example the connection of a machine to a network, could advance both areas – producing general data that could be used to improve productivity, or to signal that a new tool is now required.


Connectivity for sharing data is fundamental to the 4th industrial revolution.  However to meet “revolution” criteria, companies of all size will be impacted.

Smaller companies can already extract data from machines using low cost adapters although many will not know it.  However connectivity between companies still looks like a “large company project”. 

Why?  Because connecting companies for data exchange is still not cheap and easy, restricting it to volume trading relationships.  This is where Vos Voco can help – particularly for exchange of “precise” data.

This precise data can have an immediate impact on businesses of all size.  For smaller companies it can mean providing new services, or simply doing more with the same labour.  Think providing replenishment services or digitising paper based processes.  For larger companies, it is now possible to engage all suppliers or customers – not just the volume trading partners.

Imagine a supplier/customer meeting to talk about quality improvements.  Discussions without specific shipment/delivery information results in vague commitments “to look into it”.

The future is here and accessible

Companies of all size have the same problem of implementing new systems.  All are short of cash for investment and concerned about the risk and time needed to update.

However not all of the 4th industrial revolution will be delivered by expensive robots and artificial intelligence.  There are already low cost adapters /equipment to gather and process data that can be applied to existing systems.  For collection and exchange of operational “precise” data, our own system allows connectivity between companies at nominal cost, working alongside existing systems.

Simple changes that cut down on manual work and helps get things “right-first-time” more often.

Next Steps

Personally, I don’t blame managers for being reluctant to update their systems.  A trade show of any industry will be full of IT suppliers promising transformation.  However for anyone who has been through a system change, they are wary of cost blow-outs and service disruptions during implementation.  The good news is that low cost tech that works beside existing systems will deliver a large percentage of the 4th industrial revolution.

For further information, don’t hesitate to call for a chat on 01295 330808.

Derek Silby
CEO and Founder, Vos Voco

Posted on December 16, 2021