Today’s smart technology has transformed nearly every aspect of human life, launching us into a new era of information and productivity. Industries like manufacturing and healthcare are rapidly advancing, giving us the ability to increase living standards for everyone across the globe. Make sure you’re adapting and innovating during the current industrial revolution with this guide to a smarter industrial business.

What is Industry 4.0?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, though it’s better known as Industry 4.0. The German government first coined this term in 2011 to describe a high-tech manufacturing strategy. It’s also sometimes used to describe specific technology, practices, or goals for industrial businesses. To put it simply, Industry 4.0 combines digital and physical technologies to increase efficiency and productivity in previously unthinkable ways.

Manufacturers can use these technologies, such as AI robotics, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, to streamline operations and drive smarter, faster decisions. Industry 4.0 further empowers management teams by increasing visibility of the entire operation and utilizing valuable assets to their fullest. Don’t get left behind —implement the following technologies and strategies to take advantage of what Industry 4.0 can offer.

Data Management & Analysis

Data is one of the greatest business assets you can have in the Age of Information, but it’s almost always under-utilized. The challenge that many enterprise companies face is wrangling all of their data from various sources into one accurate record that they can analyze. Every business generates tons of data (from transactions, vendors, etc.), but this data is usually fragmented and inconsistent. Unstructured, big data was simply too vast to process and analyze, leading to massive data silos. Fortunately, new technology has given organizations the solutions they need to remedy this.

Master data management software addresses these specific needs by combining all of your data systems into one “golden record” that eliminates duplicates and inconsistencies. This creates a flexible, multi-domain platform that can be used across your entire organization to increase visibility and uncover new opportunities. Data management systems have multiple styles that can integrate all of your existing CRMs, ERPs, and APIs. The applications are nearly endless, from personalized customer experiences to faster product launches.

Advanced analytics uses machine learning and AI to process all of your newly organized data and automatically find key insights. This includes all of that unstructured, big data from social media interactions as well as your operational data. Drag-and-drop user dashboards empower your entire team to generate visual analytics and predictive models. The utilization of predictive analytics allows you to shift to a proactive approach, identifying issues before they even arise. Top use cases include risk management, supply chain optimization, and marketing campaigns.

Asset Management

Another key component of smart manufacturing is asset tracking and management. Assets in the industrial business can include buildings, machinery, and other equipment. Everything relies on your equipment’s functionality, so tracking asset locations and conditions is essential to streamline your workflows. The utilization of barcodes, QR codes, and RFID tags were the first step towards smart asset tracking. By also leveraging newer technologies like the Internet of Things, you can build a smarter and more connected factory.

Implementing an asset tracking system can provide full visibility over all of your physical assets so you can make faster repairs and smarter decisions. Having one unified system means you’ll have up-to-date, comprehensive, and configurable records for all of your equipment and technology. With the use of mobile apps, anyone on your team can submit and track repairs. They’ll also be able to conduct mobile audits, scan barcodes, and even generate new barcodes, all from their mobile device.

Asset management solutions are fully customizable, so you can create custom asset tags and attachments to track what’s most important to your business. Design your own notifications and alerts, so you’re always on top of any issues that may arise. You can even customize user roles to simplify the view for end-users and keep your records secure. Smart asset management will even analyze your asset data to identify what technology works best for you and eliminate that which doesn’t.

Automation & AR

Despite the bad reputation they get from Sci-Fi movies, robots are now a crucial part of the industrial business. Some even argue that factories will be completely automated in the future, though there will likely always be some human interaction required. It’s easy to see why automation is taking over the industry — it gives you a competitive advantage by reducing costs and downtime.

The biggest use case for automation in manufacturing is product line efficiency. Just about every industrial business uses conveyor belts to transport materials and packaging. These conveyor systems can be automated to reduce errors, increase employee safety, and streamline material handling. A smart industrial conveyor is customizable and flexible to meet your unique challenges and needs. Automated systems can provide industrial solutions for everything from inspection and testing to product control and flow.

Augmented reality is another smart trend for industrial workplaces. AR glasses, not to be mistaken with VR, can overlay information and digital content onto the real world. This allows factory workers to monitor equipment hands-free in real-time. It can even be used to create virtual mock-ups on the production line and train new employees. Though it’s still in its early stages, AR will likely become an integral component of Industry 4.0.

Customer Service

It doesn’t matter how efficient your operations are if you aren’t providing a great customer experience as well. Even though industrial businesses are becoming more automated, people still want to talk to a real customer service representative when they need help. You can go above and beyond their expectations while also increasing productivity with today’s smart, cloud-based contact center software.

More and more people are working remotely these days, which isn’t a problem with call center software like Bright Pattern. Much like other Industry 4.0 technologies, Bright Pattern software creates a centralized customer service platform that automatically integrates CRM data. This enables your customer support team to deliver personalized customer interactions, boosting brand loyalty and reliability. Bright Pattern software can even identify customers and route them to the same agent they’ve spoken to in the past or automatically re-connect when a call is dropped.

A cloud-based contact center’s capabilities are nearly endless — including in-call SMS messaging, call transcriptions, and sentiment analysis. Interactive intelligence, such as chat bots, can be used effectively to complete simple tasks or identify the reason for the call before connecting someone to a real agent. Virtual callback queues can greatly improve customer experience by eliminating the unpleasant and dreaded experience of waiting on hold for a representative. All of this really only scratches the surface of what today’s call center software is capable of doing.

There’s certainly much more to Industry 4.0, but these four areas are great starting points for creating a smarter industrial business. It may seem a bit overwhelming or expensive to implement all of these technologies at once, so perhaps it’s best to upgrade things one at a time. The good news is that smart manufacturing tech and strategies have some of the highest ROIs in the business. If you want to be an industry leader, you need to get on board with this industrial revolution before you get left in the dust.