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Implementing Industry 4.0: HR Challenges and Opportunities in Manufacturing

The ever-changing demands placed on the manufacturing industry have required the sector to evolve and adapt exponentially throughout its existence. When people hear the words ‘industrial revolution’ they often think back to the very first industrialisation that took place in the 1700s. We are now, 323 years later, deep in the developments of a fourth industrial revolution, known as ‘Industry 4.0’

The term was first coined in 2011 during a high tech strategy project being driven by the German government. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes industry 4.0 as ‘ a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries’. McKinsey further refined this definition in 2022, to specify that Industry 4.0 is ‘next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, driven by disruptive trends including the rise of data and connectivity, analytics, human-machine interaction, and improvements in robotics’. Schwab highlighted the challenges that decision makers will face as part of these high velocity developments. He suggests that it will take a collaborative effort across society to ensure that this revolution remains ‘empowering and human centred’.

With this challenge in mind, how can employers play their part in this transformation?

Within this article, Croner assesses the HR challenges and opportunities associated with industry 4.0.

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