Oct. 15, 2020
As data collecting capabilities in every sector have grown since the advent of mainstream usage of computers and internet, the need to harness this data has grown with it. Thanks to the innovations brought by the fourth industrial revolution, including AI, 3D printing, machine learning, and big data analysis, businesses in all sectors, especially manufacturing, will benefit from shrinking labor costs, more efficient processes, and better operations management. To be ahead of the curve, Oman is already starting to view all sectors' downstream processes through the lens of the fourth industrial revolution.
The sector with the largest potential to be impacted by the fourth industrial revolution is that of manufacturing. This is due to revolution's innovations, which will essentially bring more efficient ways of manufacturing by improving automated processes, thus lowering labor costs and reducing CAPEX early in manufacturing processes. Indeed, as Krishna Rao, Executive Director and Board member of SV Pittie Sohar, noted in his TBY interview, “Highly efficient machines increase quality and quantity of output while consuming less power and still allow for high employment without being detrimental to the bottom line."
Furthermore, as manufacturing downstream processes are usually labor intensive and detail-oriented, tools such as more sophisticated automation may lead to increased outputs, but without the rise in labor costs and time. It may also allow companies to introduce value-added processes in their downstream, especially in sectors like mining where business lines are mainly confined to raw material output. “In this sense," said Public Authority for Mining CEO Hilal Al Busaidi in his TBY interview, “innovation for the mining industry will be paramount because it will help utilize every element of minerals, creating value-added products, instead of just exporting the raw materials. It would also help in terms of improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness."
The revolution's tools will also be helpful in processing-heavy sectors, such as F&B. Oman's Industrial Innovation Centre (IIC) has decided to focus on the sector because of its “tremendous room for growth," according to its CEO, Abdullah al Makruki, in an article by Oman Observer. Food sales in Oman are estimated to experience an estimated annual growth of 6.5% between 2019 and 2023, with the sector expected to grow around 7.1% annually in the whole GCC region, according to research by MENA Research Partners. Because of the trend in healthy and plant-based food, the opportunities for introducing downstream processes to create value-added products (i.e. meat alternatives and the like) is enormous. With the processing of big data around food trends and customers' tastes, companies in the sector could create innovative products, without spending money on exhaustive research surveys.
While innovation is, in and of itself, something to be welcomed, especially in downstream processes, collaboration is the oil that keeps the cogs of innovation turning. As Al Mahruki told TBY in his interview: “Partnership is a very crucial factor when you talk about technology transfer and innovation. For innovation to have an impact, there is a need to network with experts and innovation agencies as one ecosystem."
Perhaps therein lies one reason why the fourth industrial revolution hasn't had quite as large of a bang as first postulated. While global trade networks and internet connections have brought large swaths of the world in contact with one another, it has not necessarily led to the creation of one giant ecosystem, with experts working together on how to use these tools to bring about greater advances.
There is no doubt the fourth industrial revolution will force companies across all sectors to rethink how they conduct business. The question is will its true energy be harnessed in the short run? With the government's commitment to integrating the tools of the fourth industrial revolution tools into its economy, Oman could lead the charge forward for the rest of the world.