Through the ages, mankind’s progress has been measured by his capacity to produce. A sign of prosperity for any nation has traditionally been quantified by its capacity to trade, achieving a favourable balance of trade being a sure sign of prosperity for any nation. Our first foray into manufacturing and mass production was characterised by steam powered mechanisation, the drivers of our economies shifting from agriculture to industry and our transitioning from hand powered production methods to machines. Great Britain in the 18th century served as the birth place of the First Industrial Revolution. The country quickly become a commercial hub and global trading empire through the activities of the East India Company.

The discovery of oil, the emergence of electricity as a source of energy, the development of the combustion engine and inventions such as the telegraph and the telephone towards the late 19th century ushered in the Second Industrial Revolution. In a few years, the world would see evolved methods of transportation such as airplanes and automobiles. By 1908, Henry Ford had built the Model T, the world’s first mass produced car. Henry Ford had revolutionised the concept of the factory through the innovation of mass production, dramatically reducing production costs and bringing in the age of consumerism.

The Third Industrial Revolution during the 1960’s was distinguished by the emergence of Nuclear Power, the rise of electronics and telecommunications. Factories recorded increased levels of automation through PLC’s – Programmable logic controllers and Robots. This era also marked the dawn of the space age, by July 20th, 1969, man had set foot on the moon.

The world is at the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Catalysed by technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Industrial Internet of Things, Quantum Computing, 3D printing and Blockchain, the lines between human and machine interaction are quickly blurring. Manufacturing has witnessed large amounts of disruption through artificial intelligence and increasingly sophisticated cyber physical systems combining physical machines and business processes. Technology promises to change the world as we know it, from improving our quality of life to permanently disrupting the future of work. As we embark on new technological adventures, what does the future have in store for us? Only time will tell.

Author Name: Mithun Gopinath

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