‘Industry 5.0’ turning towards social purpose: Sudhish Venkatesh


Industry is becoming conscious and active towards its social purpose. We are entering the fifth phase of industrial revolution, according to whose needs we have to mold ourselves.

history of industrial revolutions

0.0 : In the 15th century, Gutenberg made the printing machine in Germany and printed material replaced the ‘oral tradition’.

1.0 : In the 18th and 19th centuries, James Watt and then RL Stevenson invented steam power to replace human labor with machines. At the same time, rail engines came in transport. The conditions of the factory workers were harsh and full of exploitation.

2.0 : In the 19th and 20th centuries, the invention of electricity and the use of the internal combustion engine developed new forms of transportation, production, and communication. Assembly-line production replaced manual machines. When new opportunities were created for workers in many industries, the labor market also became more competitive. New methods of control over the workers were adopted.

3.0 : Computers and the Internet came in the second half of the 20th century. This revolution of information technology continues, in which tasks are being automated and new ways of communication and collaboration are emerging. This has led to gig work, independent contracting, outsourcing, offshoring and flexibility in personnel management, which has also led to job displacement.

4.0 : At the turn of the 20th and 21st century, machines started talking to each other through the Internet. This era of manufacturing is characterized by an increase in the integration of technologies, examples of which are artificial intelligence, robotics, and 5G connectivity. Digitization has enabled better decision making, lower production costs and new levels of customization for consumers. Continuous monitoring and analysis of the production process enabled manufacturers to make rapid changes when demand changed.

What was the significance of these revolutions for the people and the society?

Each industrial revolution was the result of the discovery of a new form of energy, such as steam, electricity, etc. Every revolution improved the human development indices, influenced human and social behavior and ended traditional works and also created new ones. Those who fell in it, they moved forward. But, wastage and environmental damage also increased. In my opinion 4.0 and 5.0 are not revolutions but evolution, where some people may be in 3.0 while some may be in 4.0. At the same time, Nunihal will be entering directly in 5.0.

What is ‘Industry 5.0’?

‘Industry 5.0’ is based on the three principles of human-centredness, sustainability and flexibility. Many things are coming together in this, such as AI, big-data, block-chain, cloud-computing, machine-learning and 5G connectivity. Virtual and augmented realities (AR and VR) are reshaping production processes, while 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes are reducing waste.

However, there are also challenges such as the large investment and time required in new technologies, scarce required skills and expertise, unemployment of low-skilled workers, cyber threats, and shrinking administrative positions.

‘What are the implications of Industry 5.0 for society, leaders and HR professionals?

While benefits include improved health care and quality of life for society, there are ethical-social concerns such as income inequality, job displacement, and increased surveillance and personal data collection.

Leaders need to think ahead, innovate and adapt quickly. They must clearly articulate a balanced vision between financial performance and social and environmental impacts. They have to move from shareholder value to value for all stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, community).

Human resource (HR) leaders have to create ‘flexible talent models’ according to the needs of the organization and the employees. They are expected to develop diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies and programs. Work-life balance modalities have to be devised in terms of engagement with the personnel, their experience and well-being. From HR information systems, applicant tracking systems to cloud-based solutions and AI, technology in HR and the use of data and analytics have made HR processes efficient and effective. As a result, there is an emphasis on data-driven decision-making in all aspects of personnel recruitment, talent-development, performance-management and pay. It is the responsibility of HR to prepare the workforce for new and advanced skills in line with ‘Industry 5.0’.

How can we-you adapt to the needs of ‘Industry 5.0’?

We need – One, Digital skills like data analysis, programming, digital marketing etc. Two- soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, so that we can do more complex and creative work. Three – a mindset of continuous growth and learning. Four – Interdisciplinary learning through work in different industries and exposure to diverse cultures and perspectives. Five – The work-week can be 3 days, giving us more time for rest, family and some other work.

We are standing at the cusp of ‘Industry 5.0’. Now it is up to us to seize this moment and turn the path of new era towards social purpose.

Sudhish Venkatesh is Chief Communications Officer and Managing Editor at the Azim Premji Foundation.

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