Will technology change the industry?
The fourth industrial revolution will have impacts far beyond manufacturing and will require regulators, educators, investors and workers to adapt
A revolution in technology will bring about transformation across the breadth of the industrial landscape. That change will not be uniform. Those differences are highlighted clearly in recent research by Epson, looking into the workplace of 2025 and beyond.
We interviewed 17 leading thinkers on technology-driven trends in European industry and then surveyed over 7,000 European business leaders and employees to understand their awareness and perceptions of these trends, as well as their expectation on how they will be impacted.
When we speak of the industrial revolution it conjures images of transformative machines delivering innovation in manufacturing. Perceptions of the new (fourth industrial) revolution are no different. European workers prominently highlighted the automotive sector and industrial manufacturing as areas expected to feel the greatest impact. But there is more to a revolution than machinery.
Where this revolution perhaps differs from those of the past is the wider environment in which it will emerge. The modern European industrial landscape is one guided by interconnected regulation, and that regulation will have a significant impact on the transformation of tomorrow.
Our research highlights that 73 percent of European employees believe that new technologies will lead to more regulation and laws on liability and practices. It is here where our modern revolution may differ significantly from the past, as industries such as healthcare adapt to a far more consequential regulatory burden. It is here too where government bodies could offer the most significant sector-specific impact on technology.
Transformation by sector
The differential impact of technology across sectors is a key element of Epson’s research. We explored five key sectors of healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education and the general corporate world. It is clear that despite the overwhelming benefits of technology, these industries will face an equal challenge in effective implementation.
In retail, our research found that consumers are set to have a significant influence on the way goods are purchased and produced, with 3D printing creating a landscape of local, customised production. Big data and wearable technology will further facilitate a move towards a world where retailers no longer provide goods themselves, but offer consumers the licences to print, at home or elsewhere.
In manufacturing, this shift in buying behaviour will have a substantial impact on the way goods are produced globally. The sector shows a refreshingly positive outlook for the future, despite acknowledging that the traditional manufacturing model is set to be completely transformed.
In healthcare, the role of data democratises personal care. It will enable patient capabilities for diagnosis and preventative care in their own homes to a degree beyond anything we currently experience. But as previously noted, regulatory environments may impact the success of this significantly.
Adapting across sectors
While the immediate impacts across sectors may vary, a common theme will be the need for industries to positively adapt. A 2016 EU report on the Future of Work1 highlights the ongoing nature of this change, but also the vital need for a regulatory environment that understands and adapts with it, alongside an educational framework that builds skills for the future.
Our own research reveals that education workers remain optimistic in their outlook towards the impact of technology on their sector. However, financing, teacher training and appropriate implementation could still provide barriers to success.
The expected reality is that over the course of the next decade and beyond industry will continue to adapt and change as a result of ongoing technological innovation. As such, ensuring the creation of an education system that prepares and supports tomorrow’s workforce for life-long learning and adaptation will be a critical foundation for Europe.