Unlike the other industrial revolutions, classified as such a posteriori, the fourth was heralded back in 2011: Industry 4.0 was introduced in Germany, the most industrial of the wealthy countries, as a project to promote competitiveness through the massive application of new manufacturing technologies.
There is no consensus regarding the definition of Industry 4.0, also called advanced manufacturing, but it involves smart factories using a combination of technologies, such as the Internet of Things, big data analysis, digital manufacturing and artificial intelligence. Some of its basic principles involve real-time responses, decentralization, interoperability and service orientation. Changes are expected to occur in all stages of production and consumption, producing significant effects on the global economy.
The role of Brazil and its potential in this new context has yet to be determined. Its performance depends largely on the industrial base and human elements like entrepreneurism, the quality of the workforce, and the knowledge base of universities, institutes, and organizations that generate and communicate knowledge. Brazil lacks a robust electronics industry, which is essential for advanced manufacturing, and its technological efforts have been relatively modest to date, tending to be based on reproducing already-existing processes and products. Advanced manufacturing is also associated with informed consumption, which is difficult in a society with low levels of income and education. But Brazil does have an industrial sector that is sufficiently large, diversified and integrated and will allow it to aspire to have an Industry 4.0 model in which knowledge plays a significant role.
This issue of our magazine offers several perspectives that address the promised new industrial paradigm. The cover story presents the advanced manufacturing concept and some examples that are beginning to emerge in Brazil. The new model is expected to affect employment relations and change the demands for professional qualifications, the topic of this issue’s Careers section. The report on page 18 highlights the Internet of Things, one of the technologies that sustain it. In an interview with the magazine given during his travels through Brazil, South Korean Keun Lee, president of the International Schumpeter Society, talked about subjects that pervade the discussion, such as the cycles of leadership change in industry sectors.
One phenomenon related to changes in manufacturing is a Product-Service System (PSS) or servitization. In this new approach, traditional sales of goods like household appliances are being replaced by a business system in which the client pays to use the product while the company continues to own it, maintaining responsibility for its upkeep and disposal.
Putting aside advanced technology, a riveting read can be found in the interview with linguist Ataliba Castilho, granted to editor Carlos Fioravanti. The scholar of Portuguese spoken in Brazil talks about the recent changes identified in orality–for example, expressing the plural by adding ‘s’ only to the article, not the noun, as in os menino–with the effortlessness of one who observes language as a living object of study, rather than from the perspective of just guardian of educated language.