The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is here, and it’s affecting the way your company does business. 4IR is a collection of technologies that promises to eliminate the most tedious and repetitive tasks in businesses today, including certain sales, engineering, and manufacturing activities. You can join the revolution by embracing visual CPQ, which is one of the essential 4IR technologies. 

Essential Points

  • What is the 4IR?
  • What technologies are driving 4IR?
  • How does visual CPQ fit into 4IR?
  • When is 4IR coming?

What is the 4IR?

4IR is the fourth revolution to hit human industry and, perhaps, the most important so far. 

Revisiting the First Three Industrial Revolutions

The First Industrial Revolution arrived in 1760 and lasted about 75 years. During this first revolution, businesses harnessed water and steam power to mechanize the formerly manual manufacturing process. This era saw the rise of factory production, new types of chemical manufacturing, and a burgeoning textile industry. 

The Second Industrial Revolution occurred in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, driven by the invention of the internal combustion engine and the discovery of electricity. This revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, led to significant advancements in manufacturing and production technology, which resulted in rapid industrialization as well as improved communications. 

The Third Industrial Revolution started in the last half of the 20th century and continues to this day. Known as the Digital Revolution, this revolution was all about shifting from mechanical and analog technology to digital technology, specifically computers and the Internet. This revolution brought about our current Information Age and the rise of social media.

Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is just now starting. It builds on the first three revolutions to further automate manufacturing and industry with so-called smart technology. As noted by the World Economic Forum, the 4IR is disrupting industries and transforming our society in ways we can’t yet grasp.

The rise of cloud computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies are driving this latest revolution. The 4IR promises to fully automate currently manual processes in all aspects of society, from smart homes to fully autonomous factories. In eliminating tedious manual processes, 4IR will change the way things get done and the necessity for human interaction in performing those tasks. 

4IR will result in significant gains in productivity and efficiency, reducing the cost of producing goods and delivering many services. This will drive substantial economic growth but with the potential loss of jobs and individual privacy.

What Technologies are Driving 4IR?

Several new technologies are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What these technologies have in common is the ability to operate autonomously, with little to no human intervention.

3D Printing

What most people call 3D printing, additive manufacturing is a technology that lets users “print” just about any three-dimensional object imaginable. It’s useful for rapid prototyping and small production runs.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that enables computers and machines to make human-like autonomous decisions. Machine learning enables computer systems to “learn” on their own through the use of data and experience.


Automation is key to 4IR. By delegating many manual activities to machines, automation improves productivity and eliminates tedious, dangerous, and inefficient tasks.

Big Data and Analytics

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is built on data – lots of it. Advanced analytics promises to mine all the data generated and digitized during the Third Industrial Revolution to find previously unknown information that can be used to improve human health, wealth, and society at large.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing takes data previously-stored locally and centralizes it in Internet-based servers, where it’s accessible by anyone in the world. It enables the rapid data sharing necessary to support other 4IR technologies.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) may be the most important 4IR technology. The IoT connects millions of small, single-purpose devices and enables them to “talk” and share information.

From smart lightbulbs to smart thermostats to smart sensors in factories, the IoT produces a new network of devices that can function autonomously and collectively.


Robots have been around for some time. But thanks to AI, the IoT, and other 4IR technologies, they’re just now coming into their own. Advanced robotics promises to automate many manufacturing processes further and replace human beings in various tedious manual tasks.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) put users inside computer-generated digital worlds. These technologies promise to create immersive environments that revolutionize shopping, communication, and more.

How Does Visual CPQ Fit into 4IR?

Visual CPQ both enables and is driven by 4IR technologies. It promises to change the way you sell complex configurable products.

What is Visual CPQ?

CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote. It’s a process for automating the selling of highly customizable products. 

With CPQ, customers configure a product with their desired options and features, have that custom product accurately priced, and then receive a detailed quote for purchasing that product. CPQ helps to speed up the sales process while improving accuracy and reducing costs.

Visual CPQ solutions, such as that offered by KBMax, put a visual frontend on the whole CPQ process. They use visual product configurator software that enables users or sales reps to configure product options visually.

As options and features are selected using the visual product configurator, the product is displayed onscreen in a computer-generated 2D or 3D rendering. Customers can rotate the 3D models and zoom in to see more detail. This rendering is done in real-time so that customers see what they’re configuring as they configure it. 

Visual CPQ drives customer engagement and enables dynamic real-time pricing. Because visual CPQ solutions also provide engineering and manufacturing with detailed design specs, it also helps reduce manufacturing errors and speeds up the entire manufacturing process.

How Does 4IR Enable Visual CPQ?

Today, Visual CPQ is driven by CAD technology and solutions like KBMax feed output directly to most major CAD systems. This data can also be routed to 3D printers for prototyping and small production runs or factory machinery incorporating IoT and advanced robotic technology. 

In addition, AI and machine technologies use big data analytics to predict and react to customer needs more accurately. Algorithms help CPQ systems know which features and options to present and help put together preselected feature packages that best appeal to potential customers. CPQ systems located in diverse locations can instantly access data stored in the cloud, enabling manufacturing to be located in more affordable locations around the globe. 

AI and machine learning also enable “guided selling.” With thousands of product features and options to choose from, customers and sales reps alike often don’t know what’s available or which options are best. Working from prior customer data, guided selling systems walk customers step-by-step through the configuration process, resulting in more appropriate customization and increased upselling.

Big data and analytics can play a significant role in determining pricing strategies. CPQ solutions can now employ dynamic pricing that changes based on customer choices as well as competitive and market conditions. This sort of real-time price optimization can result in both higher conversion rates and increased profit margins. 

All of your backend processes can benefit from the increased automation that is part and parcel of 4IR. Sales, engineering, and manufacturing can all be automated, speeding up processes and reducing errors and costs. 

Finally, today’s CAD-driven product renderings will eventually be wholly supplanted by AR and VR technology. This will enable the next generation of visual product configuration software to create more lifelike visuals that will immerse customers in their self-configured environments. With AR and VR, customers will operate virtual machinery, drive virtual vehicles, walk through virtual worlds, and see how the products they configure look and interact with the real physical world.

When is 4IR Coming?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t coming – it’s here. Visual CPQ, such as that offered by KBMax, is just one example of how 4IR technology changes the way you do business. Stay on top of the trends and embrace 4IR. It will change things – for the better.