Four industrial revolutions and their impact on the metals & mining sector
The world has witnessed three industrial revolutions in the past 200 years, and is on the brink of the fourth one, mainly driven by digitalization.
Each revolution has been enabled by technological advancements and led to fundamental changes in the ways industries functioned. The first revolution was heralded by the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, which enabled massive industrial production and rapid mechanization in manufacturing. The second revolution was caused by electrification, which brought about the use of machines powered by electricity and led to mass production based on division of labor. The third revolution, enabled by software and electronics, led to full automation of industrial processes.
Now, in the 21st century, we stand at the forefront of the next industrial revolution, which will be powered by digitalization. Digital technology will be used on a massive scale to monitor and control industrial processes. Autonomous and connected systems will be able to work independently, powered by large volumes of information and analytics. Humans and these systems are envisioned to work seamlessly together.
The industrial revolutions have transformed the metals & mining industry, which is also moving to a 4.0 state driven by digitalization.
The metals & mining industry has been significantly transformed by the industrial revolutions of the past. Mining 1.0, the first transformation, was enabled by the advent of mechanical production through hydraulic drills and steam-powered engines. Mining 2.0 and Mining 3.0 leveraged the key inventions of the corresponding industrial revolutions – mass production and automation, respectively.
We expect the mining industry to undergo another transformation soon – Mining 4.0 – enabled by the fourth industrial revolution. Mining 4.0 will be about using the power of digitalization to transform the value chain. This will be driven by the digitalization of mining processes and integration of the industry in digital ecosystems, through adoption of advanced technologies that have the potential to bring increased productivity, lower cost bases, and increased safety and security.