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Industry 4.0: Challenges, advantages and the skills you need to shape the future

R Sugant
R Sugant
Posted on 29 May 2022
13:27 PM
Industry 4.0 is driven by technology and expected to improve productivity and efficiency.

Industry 4.0 is driven by technology and expected to improve productivity and efficiency. Shutterstock

Industry 4.0 is characterised by the convergence of information technology and operational technology
To thrive in Industry 4.0, a management professional needs to have a complex set of hard and soft skills

Management is a dynamic discipline that requires managers to adapt to the context, situation and, most importantly, to the environment. Management graduates now need to survive and succeed in a world that has become more brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible (BANI). Against this backdrop, they must sharpen their skills to thrive in Industry 4.0.

Emergence of Industry 4.0

While Industry 1.0 is more about mechanisation and steam engines, Industry 2.0 is about electrification and mass production. Industry 3.0 is about computing, the internet and automation. Industry 1.0 and Industry 2.0 lasted for well over 100 years each, and in contrast, Industry 3.0 existed for just about 40 years.


Driven by technology, Industry 4.0 is characterised by the convergence of IT and OT (information technology and operational technology), autonomous machines, advanced robotics, big data and analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber-physical systems enabled through the internet of things, smart factories and cloud-based architecture.

Challenges and advantages of Industry 4.0

Not all industries and businesses are moving in tandem with Industry 4.0. More so, we have 63.4 million SMEs across the country which contribute 33.4% of India's manufacturing output. These SMEs provide employment for around 120 million people and contribute around 45% of the overall exports from India. This sector will take longer to adapt to Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is expected to improve productivity and efficiency, increase knowledge-sharing and collaborative working, ensure flexibility and agility, lower costs, and make compliance easier and customer experience better.

Skills to succeed in Industry 4.0

To thrive in Industry 4.0, that too in a BANI world, a management professional needs to have a complex set of skills — both hard and soft. Some of the required hard skills are data literacy, analytical skills, management of digital media, and understanding of automation and artificial intelligence. In this special environment, artificial intelligence and machine language will make choices and decisions faster than humans.

But what cannot be replaced by machines are soft skills or skills that are transferable across functions and organisations. Some of these skills include the ability to communicate with purpose and clarity, responsible leadership, creativity and innovation, managing diverse and remote teams, the adaptability to change and manage, resilience in the face of adversity, tenacity of purpose, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility and service orientation.

Way forward

Management institutes must move towards making both hard and soft skills essential for their students. Skills like data literacy, data analytics and managing digital media have to be incorporated in the curriculum. Irrespective of any specialisation students opt for, they should acquire basic skills in these areas. Critical thinking, complex problem-solving skills and cognitive flexibility can be enabled through mandatory value-added courses. For instance, very few universities across India have incorporated “Design Thinking” as part of their courses, even though it is known to develop problem-solving skills among students. Though most B-schools follow case-based learning, it is time to move to simulation-based learning, which would enable students to participate in almost real-life situations. Such experience would not only help them acquire domain-specific knowledge, but also encourage them to brush up their creative thinking, decision-making and other critical management skills.

What the future holds

Business leaders of yesteryears had to figure out what to do and then tell people what, when, where and how to do it. But future employees will not want their leaders to tell them what to do and instead will look for someone who can lead them. To adapt to this changing mindset, today’s management graduates must learn to manage technology, processes and people with flair.

R Sugant is Dean of the School of Management & School of Economics and Commerce, CMR University, Bengaluru.

Last updated on 29 May 2022
13:27 PM
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