by Will Lovatt, General Manager and Vice President, Deposco Europe
Over the past decade or so, we have seen the rapid evolution of the concept of Industry 4.0. This new operational model has transformed the way businesses manufacture, improve and distribute their products.
We have witnessed manufacturers, logistics firms, supply chain businesses and eCommerce organisations alike adopting a raft of new technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, and AI and machine learning before integrating them into their production facilities and throughout their operations. Industry 4.0 is still a ‘growing concern’ with dynamic market expansion in the offing. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global Industry 4.0 market size is expected to increase from USD 130.90 billion in 2022 to USD 377.30 billion by 2029, growing at CAGR of 16.3% during forecast period.
Despite these positive projections, Industry 4.0’s weakness is its pure focus on technological advancement. It will ultimately be superseded by a new approach, which combines the emphasis on technology with a parallel focus on people and their priorities and concerns.
The next phase of industrial automation and digitalisation is Industry 5.0 which is all about putting humans back in the loop. In this new era, machines and humans will work together more closely, with machines taking on repetitive tasks while humans focus on more creative and strategic work. Take 5G as an example: it enables large-scale machine-to-machine communications which will reduce human error and increase reliability. It is, on the technological level, supporting enhanced connectivity, and that, in turn, is helping to improve the way humans and machines collaborate.
The world of eCommerce can also be potentially revolutionside by Industry 5.0. We are already seeing it start to reshape omnichannel supply chain fulfilment. In an omnichannel world, customers expect to be able to buy products and services from businesses through a variety of channels, including online, in-store, and through mobile devices. This puts pressure on businesses to ensure they can fulfil orders quickly and accurately, no matter how the customer chooses to purchase.
Businesses can meet the challenges of omnichannel supply chain fulfilment by the implementation of Industry 5.0 technologies. For example, robots can be used to support humans to pick and pack orders, while artificial intelligence can be leveraged to forecast demand. This can help businesses improve efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction.
Creating a more customised experience
Industry 5.0 offers organisations the potential to start putting consumers at the very heart of supply chain processes. The latest technologies can help businesses create a more personalised, customer-centric omnichannel experience.
The whole model has evolved significantly over recent years. Traditionally, the supply chain ended at the retail store – that was where people went to shop. But in a consumer-centric world, that has changed, with shoppers now able to order through their chosen device and at a time that suits them.
That versatility, powered by the latest direct-to-consumer order fulfilment technology, enables eCommerce organisations to build direct relationships with their customers and better personalise their offerings, To facilitate this, modern fulfilment technology has to be able to accept orders from multiple channels all of the time and have a real-time view of the inventory across the supply chain network. This emphasis on the efficiency of omnichannel fulfilment is critical to the success of Industry 5.0 technologies in an eCommerce context.
At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of other human-centric solutions and applications that are increasingly changing the game in this sector. Augmented Reality, for example, can be used to help customers visualise products before they buy them while, from a sales perspective, TikTok has rapidly established itself as being among the biggest social media eCommerce gateways.
Workers can also become more efficient through the use of Industry 5.0 technologies – and that’s especially key in the new age of direct-to-consumer. Some systems only allow for a single picker at a time to fulfil an order, but if that involves hundreds of different items, that’s not efficient. Zonal strategies, with individuals looking after certain areas of the warehouse, and software that will help to pick and sort across multiple users, can be put in place, with the final order being consolidated into one customer-specific packed order.
Looking to the future
Industry 5.0 is the next generation of industrial automation and digitalisation that puts humans back in the loop. It has the potential to revolutionise the world of eCommerce by helping organisations meet the challenges of omnichannel supply chain fulfilment, create a more personalised and customer-centric omnichannel experience, and improve the efficiency of their operations.
As this new production model continues to evolve, it will have a profound impact on the way that businesses fulfil orders. Businesses that are able to embrace these new technologies will be well-positioned to succeed in the omnichannel era.