The first industrial revolution was mechanization through water and steam power. The second was the development of mass production through assembly lines and division of labor. The third was spawned by the introduction of computers, electronics, and automation.

Now, experts say, we are in the fourth revolution, or “Industry 4.0.” Welcome to the age of Big Data, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things. In this transformation, worldwide commerce is being significantly reshaped by the proliferation of the internet throughout our society. To many businesses, it means more intelligent manufacturing or better networking. For others, this revolution means a whole new way of doing business.

Some companies have taken advantage of these significant changes and incorporated 4.0 as an advantage that sets them apart. Others, facing an industry that has worked quickly to embrace what the worldwide web offers, face a stark picture should they continue to follow the business practices they have known for decades. For those, the message is brutal but straightforward – “Evolve or Die.”

But even companies faced with dire choices can take heart. This is not Kodak or CPI Photo facing the influx of the digital camera. This is not the phone booth business melting in the face of a suddenly booming mobile phone market. This is evolution, not extinction – as long as you embrace the revolution before it is too late.

What Customers Want

40% of online shoppers won’t wait more than 3 seconds for an internet page to loadIndustry 4.0 has spoiled the customer on nearly all fronts. Amazon provides curated item picks and fast delivery. Grocery stores will shop for you and drop the goods at your doorstep. The majority of customers who reach out to businesses on social media (75%) expect a response within 24 hours. Over a quarter (35%) expect some sort of answer in an hour or less.

We are so incredibly spoiled that 40% of online shoppers won’t wait more than 3 seconds for an internet page to load. Goldfish would wait longer.

But it’s more than an expectation for fast response times, predictive metrics, and quick delivery. The demand for self-service has risen significantly. Even for business-to-business channels, companies are far less likely to visit a location, pick up a phone, or even send an email for a quote. As of 2019, more than half of companies (61-65%)preferred self-service for research, evaluation, ordering, and reordering.

So, today’s business customer is searching for intuitive technology with a simple user experience on the front-end and lightning-fast, friendly, and helpful response on the back-end. Where did they get this expectation? From other industries that have already upgraded to a 4.0 model.

Industry 4.0 For The Printing World

4.0 technology is giving the Managed Print business even more of an advantageBusiness and office printing is a unique industry that relies heavily on printing supplies, equipment, software, and maintenance. While some companies cobble together their own mish-mash of vendor suppliers, a growing number of businesses have realized the real efficiencies and costs savings are found partnering with Managed Print Services (MPS) providers. And 4.0 technology is giving the Managed Print business even more of an advantage.

Most MPS companies already pride themselves on high quality, fast delivery, and low pricing. But office printers have become so ubiquitous to the business space that equipment manufactures were forced to divorce them from anything resembling the small consumer printers found standard in big box stores. Office printers are designed to connect to networks. Initially, this was to allow for fast inter-office printing. Now, however, it will enable these machines to be securely connected to cloud-based services that can assist with better overall management.

MPS using services such as PowerMPS, for instance, can use their cloud-based customer connection to provide more in-depth services for their clients and generate a better self-service experience online. Things like predictive supply ordering, usage reports, and online service requests are just a few of the ways a 4.0 empowered MPS provider’s customers can benefit.

But it’s more than a convenience; MPS 4.0 also offers a significant return for MPS businesses. Updating the business to provide in-person and online interactions caters to both companies who thrive on face-to-face sales and those who prefer a fast, always available, online alternative.

In A Post-Covid Print World

In a post-COVID-19 world, an online strategy is even more critical as it can help cater to those business partners still subject to more stringent safety measures. It also creates a way for the MPS business to continue operations even if they are forced to temporarily close their physical doors. And, while in-person service and maintenance areas may be limited, cloud-based connections can expand remote maintenance and sales opportunities. The result is a larger, more digital space to grow.

Fortunately, implementing a 4.0 strategy doesn’t have to be an IT and labor-intensive project. Services like PowerMPS offer comprehensive and easily implemented software that allows MPS businesses to create customized storefronts, customer profiles, and connections that will get them online quickly and efficiently. While the print industry’s call to embrace the 4.0 revolution may not be a blaring alarm yet, savvy MPS providers are taking advantage of everything the Internet of Things has to offer…before it becomes a “due or die.”