There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about industry 4.0. If you’ve been out of the loop, 4.0 is all about smarter, more efficient processes thanks to the deployment of modern technologies. Platforms like IoT, AI, big data and advanced robotics are transforming the industry for the better.

It helped solve a lot of problems, especially related to efficiency and productivity. 4.0 gave rise to streamlined automation, better manufacturing tools and hardware, and improved operations. For example, IoT devices make it possible to keep a close eye on active hardware and allow plant manager to mononitor and prevent common manufacturing problems before they happen.

The device monitors the hardware in real-time, and phones in when there’s a potential risk of failure. The proper personnel can take action either by fixing the hardware or swapping it out for something more reliable.

It works so well, nearly every industry has seen adoption of the affected technologies — from manufacturing to construction to health care. That shows Industry 4.0 is in the now. In other words, everyone is already focused on deployment or implementation, which means it’s the perfect time to start looking ahead.

What is next, however? What comes after Industry 4.0? Obviously, it’s generation 5.0.

What Is Industry 5.0?

The next generation ties into the last, where the same smart technologies and solutions are employed, yet merged with a more human touch. In the current generation, the focus is on chained machines, intelligent devices, streamlined processes or automation, and maximum efficiency. A lot of that involves taking controls away from human workers. Industry 5.0 will be about giving some of it back.

Increased collaboration among smart systems, robotics and human allies are the foundation of Industry 5.0. This will bring the cognitive and critical thinking of humans back into the equation, while also relying on the efficiency and advanced logistics of computers and smart devices.

If that description sounds a bit confusing, that’s all right. It’s a complex concept to understand, especially at such an early stage.

Think of it like this: The rote and monotonous tasks with a more repetitive nature will be delegated to machines and smart systems. Cognitive and creative tasks that require both skill and talent will be siphoned back to humans. In the grand scheme, it will be about leveraging the strengths of both parties — human or otherwise — to create a well-oiled machine.

As we experienced with the emergence of Industry 4.0, the next generation will bring along its own changes and upgrades, particularly regarding relevant information. As an IT-oriented decision-maker or information manager, it will be your job to balance, understand and organize the resulting information.

How Will 5.0 Change the Landscape?

Successful collaboration requires reliable communication and understanding among all parties involved. If you’re talking human-to-human collaboration and communication, the concept is remarkably simple. The game is a little different when one or more of those parties includes computer systems, automated technologies or IoT devices.

How do you effectively communicate with a computer or automated system? What about the opposite? How do you ensure the systems and applications you have in place properly communicate with their human counterparts?

Information is the key, achieved via modern data collection and processing measures.

Here’s an example: In a manufacturing environment, robots can be used to automate certain tasks. The automation process can be made more efficient by deploying IoT sensors and hardware, which collect important production and performance data. It’s all fed into a business process management tool, which essentially ingests the incoming data and spits out actionable intel. That information is then passed to a decision-maker, plant manager or authorized worker so they can act accordingly.

Industry 5.0 is about more than that. It goes beyond data for the person making the decisions. With the right systems in place, such as an AI or machine learning platform, the receiver can be presented with multiple options that will help them make better decisions.

What this does is create an entire process where the machine or technologies are the driving force, yet the human workers are still in control of the decisions and end result. The data stream or collection of information will need to be properly ingested, extracted and distributed.

As you can probably guess, it means IT decision-makers, systems managers, database administrators, developers and systems analysts will all be responsible for making sure the entire operation runs smoothly. Before that happens, it will take lots of trial and error, regular improvements and streamlined support from the systems handling the necessary data.

Making sense of it all, unsurprisingly, will require the technologies that emerged in Industry 4.0, including big data, AI and IoT.

If Industry 4.0 was about making everything smarter and more efficient, than Industry 5.0 is about going above and beyond. It will require fine-tuning everything about the previous generation to incorporate all its benefits, while merging it with a more personalized, human aspect.

Customization Is the Ultimate Achievement

The end game here is to shift to a more customizable platform for both your employees and your customers. Industry 4.0 will start to err toward Industry 5.0 when customers have the opportunity to personalize products and services.

The common example floating around is that someday soon, you may be able to build and design your own goods, which will then be delivered right to your doorstep. Think customizing shoes or clothing to meet your style. The manufacturer would provide a core design or foundation, and then you’d be able to change it up based on your personal tastes.

New forms or streams of data will be necessary to make this happen. For starters, the limitations and capabilities of the hardware will need to be communicated to everyone involved, in such a way that it doesn’t hamper the experience. It will be up to IT teams and developers to build the kind of platforms that will facilitate Industry 5.0 transactions, and they’ll need new forms of support.

A relatively new organizational leader will emerge, in charge of collaboration and data processing, called the chief robotics officer or CRO. The CRO will be responsible for managing robotics, automation and personnel while also considering key process and design strategies.

The information or data handled by a CRO will include hardware and maintenance details — such as automated conveyor performance — additional factory systems, applications and tools, customer inputs and even common trends for scalability. They will serve as the bridge or ambassador between machine and human collaboration.

We’re not talking about something that’s going to happen far into the future, either. About 85 percent of manufacturing executives from across North America, Europe and Asia believe human-machine collaboration will be commonplace within their production environments by 2020.

Industry 5.0 is coming, sooner than you may realize, so it’s time to start preparing.