The fourth industrial revolution

Recently, I visited the ‘factory of the future’ in Sheffield and the following weekend The Times newspaper had a section on the ‘Future of Work’. There is more and more talk and action relating to the fourth industrial revolution and how it is creating a future that few of us can fully comprehend.

The number of innovations appearing are huge, which is leading to new possibilities that even Hollywood would not have foreseen a couple of years ago becoming reality, and it is probably more daunting for us silver-surfing digital immigrants than those who are digital native. There is talk, backed up with practical examples, of new technological revolutions in which a computational problem is understood to be a task that is, in principle, amenable to being solved by a computer, which is equivalent to stating that the problem may be solved by mechanical application of mathematical steps, such as an algorithm.

The third industrial revolution in the 1960s, covering digital technologies and electronics, gave us robots in the workplace and those cultures that embraced them typically have the lowest levels of unemployment. Working with the fourth industrial revolution will not lead to a loss of employment, especially for those who use technology to create a better working environment. Consider courier drivers, who could be the next drone pilots delivering our goods. How can this be transferred across into the varied NDT inspection industry? A simple use would be headsets that provide instructions for the inspection that automatically incorporate all the latest updates and amendments to standards and procedures. There could be feedback to equipment manufacturers on how the equipment is performing and the requirement of annual calibration rescinded whilst the latest updates are automatically installed and logged. Live feed recordings of the inspections could be used, giving greater assurance that the correct component was inspected using the correct work instructions, equipment and consumables and by the approved operator. The report could incorporate much more digital data that is very easy to store and retrieve in the future. Those who do not want to embrace this may well be seen as a modern day ‘Luddite’, meaning a person who is someone opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation or new technologies in general.

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