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Put purpose first: How to find your feet in Industry 5.0

What is Industry 5.0? About 325,000,000 Google search results, apparently. It’s a subject on which many people and organisations have a lot to say:

“It’s a revolution…”

“It refines the interaction between human and machine…”

“It merges work and life…”

Yes, it is all of those things, but also none of them. Because Industry 5.0 is a broad church and seeks to find the value and balance between automation and human skill. As a concept, it sounds somewhat utopian, but in practice it’s actually pretty functional and takes organisation, top-down planning and a fair bit of introspection.

Karis Copp is uniquely placed to talk about the very grounded realities of Industry 5.0. She’s been working with and writing about the print industry for six years and has watched with interest as Industry 4.0 (5.0’s over-enthusiastic older sibling) took automation mainstream, spawning a million think pieces and some very serious industry hand-wringing around the future of employment. These fears were largely unfounded. “Industry 4.0 has not been fully realised,” Karis explains. “Some people adopted automation for the sake of it, but Industry 5.0 will create the opportunity to adopt automation intelligently. For example, taking the decision to automate and gather data in a very specific way, but have the humans in a business implement that automation.”

It’s a familiar scenario across industries, not just print. In many cases, you can replace the word ‘automation’ with ‘task management’ and what you have is, very simply, good business practice – ensuring that jobs are allocated and executed appropriately, with a purpose that adds value to the business. And this, in essence, is what Industry 5.0 brings to the table that 4.0 nimbly side-stepped in order to sell the need for speed in the race to Digital Transformation. Ironically, however, it has been circumstances way beyond the control of either humans or machines that have accelerated Digital Transformation far beyond timeframes thought possible. And now the challenge is to stay competitive, using existing investments, seeking new resources and looking at new ways of conducting business that are both efficient and effective.

A woman, whose face cannot be seen, types at a laptop. She wears a green shirt.
Upskilling teams can create a blend of human problem-solving and creativity, boosted by the rapid data that automation is capable of producing.

“The print industry is so vast, it touches everything.” In the world of print, Karis regularly sees how a wide spectrum of businesses operate and it is actually highly representative of business trends across all verticals. The language in the world of print may be different, but the questions all businesses want answered are the same: ‘’what does my business need? What do my customers need?’. These simple, yet fundamental questions will drive all businesses looking to a new and better way of operating, and Karis offers some solid advice for those looking to breathe new life into their businesses – print or otherwise.

Where are you – and where do you want to be?

“Start with a really thorough assessment of your business processes and your immediate and long-term goals,” she advises. “Work backwards through your workflow and look at how it connects up, where you need the unique skills of your people and what can be better achieved by automating. This is a standard Industry 5.0 practice – re-humanising your business in order to create the most efficient way of working where automation will help you.” She is keen to point out that this is not the beginning of a total overhaul of your business, but an audit of what you already have in place and is primarily about “being really honest, assessing your individual needs and putting purpose first.”

Who can help?

Having assessed your current processes, you’ve probably discovered inefficiencies, gaps, duplications or future ambitions that cannot be realised with your present technology and/or people. Now is the time to reach out for help. “Make sure you have a dialogue with your software and equipment providers,” says Karis. “There are so many companies that are working with machines, solutions and technology that they don’t fully understand, or are not using to their fullest potential.” She cites an example of a business paying for several different pieces of software, when one is all that’s required. “By working with the right long-term partners, you gain access to exceptional knowledge, advice and support.”

By freeing up your people and empowering them with new data from automation, you can almost pre-empt what your customers need

Make the most of what you’ve got

For many businesses, there’s no doubt that a lot has already changed through necessity. For example, home working is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ and, as a result, customer interactions are already feeling the effects of some kind of Digital Transformation, however gentle. “In a lot of cases it’s possible to improve your productivity and efficiency through enhancements to your existing processes,” Karis advises. You can begin to apply the capabilities of your existing technology in order to make gains in the short to medium term. This might be in basic retraining of people in order that they are able to extract and analyse the data from any existing automated processes, using it to understand better where savings can be made. “In print, that can be data from the press – usage, environmental, etc – but also estimation data and labour used. You can pick and choose the data that’s most important to your business, identify trends and then your people can implement how it’s used or make beneficial real-time adjustments to the way you run your business.”

Make it personal – blend human creativity with technology

Karis has seen how this kind of deep dive into a business also has very positive repercussions for employees and, as a result, customers. “Now is a really good time to embark on development schemes, training and education, partnering with manufacturers or organisations who share that vision,” she says. Upskilling your teams in areas of more lateral thinking that drive problem solving, such as big data, will align with an Industry 5.0 future and give real opportunities for career enhancement. At the same time, customers will see a difference in the level of personalised service they receive, as there will naturally be an increased level of attention to detail and support that comes from data-driven decision making. “It’s not enough to say, ‘we’re fast’ or ‘we’re high quality’ anymore – you need to offer a personalised experience. By freeing up your people and empowering them with new data from automation, you can almost pre-empt what your customers need.”

This is the future and it’s competitive

Overall, Karis feels confident that taking action now is the path to success. “It’s time to shift your mindset and get competitive. To think about the future of your business and what’s important to you. Strong relationships with loyal and satisfied customers? A reputation for quality and excellence? Happy, motivated and skilled employees and colleagues? Whatever your vision, I’m willing to bet it won’t be achievable without a harmonious relationship between humans and technology.”

Written by Mathew Faulkner

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