TAN Chee Peng

Group CEO | Team Synthesis

Key Points

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the emergence of the 5th Industrial Revolution as businesses recognise the need for resilience and sustainability.
  • To achieve resilience and sustainability, the imperative is to put the human in the middle of everything.
  • Industry 5.0 can be considered the “human-centric” upgrade to Industry 4.0.
  • TAN Chee Peng, Group CEO of Team Synthesis, makes the case that corporate sustainability is synonymous with sustainable growth.
  • Team Synthesis are set to work with African leaders and unlock the opportunities of the 5th Industrial Revolution to create a human-centric approach to sustainability and resilience in African business.



AfricaLive: You have stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the arrival of Industry 5.0. How do you define industry 5.0 and how has it evolved from the fourth industrial revolution and industry 4.0?

TAN Chee Peng: Preceding each Industrial Revolution, there was a big event, a game-changer. Starting with 1IR (1st Industrial Revolution) which was driven by capitalism to the 4IR.

2019 saw a once-in-a-lifetime, hopefully, mega Covid-19 event which resulted in a still-spiralling global pandemic. Two drivers shaped the emergence of the 5th Industrial Revolution: resilience and sustainability.

4IR’s super optimised putting-machine-in-the-middle operations now gave way to the need to have layered operations (e.g. site A and backup site B) resulting in the need for digital operations readiness and resilience. 

With the varying degrees of lockdowns in recent months, the question of sustainability is being asked. The sustainability question here involves balancing economic survival and safety.

To achieve resilience and sustainability, the imperative is to put the human in the middle of everything. This gives us the term Human Technologies.

4IR is also known as Cyber-Physical System (CPS). 5IR is also known as Cognitive Cyber-Physical System (CCPS), highlighting the human-centric approach to digitalisation, transitioning from New Normal to Next Level.

In short, 5IR, or i50 (Industry 5.0) as it is also known, humanises technologies and promotes massive personalisation.

This is human technology where human design meets human needs, recognising that both digital advancements and human insight, innovation and creativity are all equally important.

Specifically, 5IR:

  • Does not replace workers, it supports and empowers them.
  • Increases industries’ resilience and sustainability by leveraging on the Green Deal and Social Developmet Goals.
  • Drives a transformative impact on society.
  • Creates a better total experience (Tx) & massive personalisation (faster and cheaper customised products, increasing customer retention and satisfaction) in healthcare, retail products, etc.
  • Generates upskilling investment in highly skilled jobs to offset the automation losses.
  •  Reduces waste, increases speed and reduces production cost
  •  Requires strong collective future leadership and action in all areas.

AfricaLive: Could you provide an example of a company that should be preparing for industry 5.0 now? What would be the specific challenges they are facing and how can embracing industry 5.0 provide solutions?

TAN Chee Peng: 5IR impacts everyone and every entity of businesses, governments, societies & individuals.

Survival is now for the fastest amongst the fittest. Larger organisations are already well on their way for digital operations readiness and resilience. A typical SME would exemplify the need to be innovative in their targeted customer outreach by leveraging on a shared cost-effective cloud-based infrastructure.

A typical case in point is the artisanal handicraft SME which is facing business difficulties due to tourist-centric sales. Automating the production floor is not the issue. Based on the feedback of some outlets, who were supplying overseas customers who had previously bought from them when they were touring the country, the SME discovered two things. One, the handicraft products were meant to cheer up family members and friends who were locked down and the star products were those with personalised messages. Overnight, the business model changed from retail-based to online-based with mass message personalisation using available cost-effective cloud solutions (e-Market with delivery mechanism).      

This is an example of 5IR where the jobs of artisanal craft-persons were saved, and where human design meets human needs.

AfricaLive: What is the one thing people don’t understand about industry 4.0 and 5.0?

TAN Chee Peng: 4IR was thought to be technology-heavy, hence investment-heavy and difficult to afford. Like anything else, businesses have always prioritised based on ROI and will pursue initiatives that have overwhelming benefits including sourcing for the required capital outlay.

4IR is not meant for the manufacturing sector only. It impacts everyone and every sector. FinTech is the 4IR for finance, SmartAgri is for the agro-based sector, SmartTextile is for the textile, SmartFactory is for manufacturing, EduTech for the education sector, SmartRetail for the retail sector, etc.

5IR is the human-centric 4IR.

AfricaLive: What is the Leadership 5.0 Masterclass Series?

TAN Chee Peng: This i40/i50 masterclass series acts as an annual implementation update platform featuring 12 highly successful case studies – 3 each in Strategy, Process, Technology and Human Capital & People – for insights sharing and learning purposes. Each case study comprises Critical Success Factors (CSFs), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Lessons Learnt & Emerging Future Trends.

Example of the case studies covered on 22 Oct 21:

Sustainable business innovation, sustainable economic growth, affordable & equitable access for all, green AI-enabled efficiency & productivity, sustainable human technological innovations & digital resilience, inclusive, safe, resilient & sustainable smart city, and a sustainable blue economy (sid/ldc).

Other case studies include; sustainable living future, the political, well-being & affluence urban & rural divide, shared prosperity & eradication of extreme poverty, peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, transformational change across society, the sustainable climate-resilience next lap, and social innovation living lab.

The key takeaways are:

  • Acquire proven resolution of 5.0, SDG & digitalisation implementation issues.
  • Showcase successful Industry 5.0, SDG techniques and technologies ecosystems.
  • Understand the latest digital operational excellence, resilience to be 5.0/SDG Ready.
  •  Valuable Knowledge Exchange & Networking Platform for leadership 5.0/SDG insights.
  • Assimilate from Learning Journeys through immersive experiences from 5.0/SDG Case Studies.
  • Outline 2022-2024 5.0/SDG Action Plan.

AfricaLive: Let’s look at at-least two real-life case studies of people or companies that have benefited from attending the Masterclass Series. What challenges would they face in their business that would bring them to attend the masterclass? What beneficial changes have they been able to implement in their business following the series?

TAN Chee Peng: We will re-interpret the question to be two broad groups that will benefit from such event, those that are positively and negatively impacted:

For those positively impacted:

Challenges: Unable to meet customer expectation-led requirements (mass personalisation, new fulfilment mechanism, etc.)

Beneficial Changes: The emerging customer engagement model focussing on Cx (customer experience) is covered in the strategy segment of the Masterclass. 

This highlights the proven model with supportive processes, affordable cloud-based technology and the accompanying human xapital upskilling and digital mindset. 

For those negatively impacted;

Challenges: They are disintermediated (e.g. non-value-added middle parties, non-physical mode of delivery, etc.)

Beneficial Changes: Knowing what effectively caused the disintermediation and why the new entrants’ business models were game-changers, some of the disintermediated companies (e.g. insurance agents, travel agents) have boldly embraced innovative gig economies.

This will see them move from declining sales-based MO to emerging service-based opportunities enabled by delivery models highlighted in the Masterclass. 

AfricaLive: A challenge in the African context is that governments and companies must prepare for a future in markets that very often haven’t fully developed in line with the second industrial revolution (not to mention the third or fourth). How can African countries approach this issue of “leapfrogging” in their development?

TAN Chee Peng: From all the consultancy we have been invited to provide, we have always benchmarked the “as-is” and the desired “to-be” based on the vision of the organisations regardless of them being in the public or private sectors. Resoundingly, these vision-centric organisations have insisted on being benchmarked against the best practises. The resultant gaps are then prioritised and business imperatives are converted to projects with a specific charter, timeframe, budgets, benefits & ROI and ownership & accountability.

While it is absolutely correct that generally, Africa is still in Industry 2.5 ( this is true in Mauritius as well), there are pockets of excellence in the private sector.

In Mauritius alone, we have a world-class organisation that runs a seven football-field production floor with less than 170 workers. It has automated end to end using AI Engineering to offer mass personalisation, first-time-right digital operations and mastering digital twins to optimise machinery performance with zero unplanned downtimes!

After being warmly welcomed in Africa for the last 28 years and was lucky to be entrusted repeatedly with key strategic assignments by some of the largest organisations. I have no qualms African leaders can and will take their organisations to the next level. Like anything else, awareness is key as it will lead to supra-consciousness. Collective future, adaptive and authentic leaderships help in this transformation journey.

AfricaLive: With reference to the above, African leaders from many sectors may feel industry 5.0 is not relevant to them. How would you address this concern?

TAN Chee Peng: Let me start by commenting that the level of awareness of 4IR/i40 was pretty low around the world even as late as 2017/18 which was the midpoint to the much-touted 2025 Tipping Point. Most of the captains of the industry, especially in Mauritius, had not heard of it, leave alone having a strategic plan response in place. The relevancy acid test is this: if it impacts and affects your customers – and 4IR/i40 does – will it impact and affect you, your business and your family? 

All of them came to the conclusion that not only their cheese had been moved, but the plate on which their cheese was on had been taken too! 

It was based on their requests that the then i40 Secretariat mounted the Primer in November 2017, and subsequent Conference in September 2018 and the inaugural Masterclass in October 2018. The Masterclass – showcasing successful case studies – was a conscious and concerted attempt at revolutionising the learning, fast-tracking awareness and quickening the pace of embracing the exponential changes sweeping through the major MNCs/LLCs in better-endowed economies.

The experiential learning proves to be effective as it is not the typical cut and paste job from the internet but “showcase-and-share CSFs, KPIs, Lessons Learnt and Trends” by real-life practitioners. The high bar set for speakers was indeed daunting and many have been dropped because of these insights-sharing expectations. 

Given the 4IR/i40 experience in the last 5 years, how do we persuade more African leaders not only to embrace 5IR/i50 but to evangelise it?  Let me start by humbly quoting some feedback from an African participant for the 2020 Masterclass, “thank you for democratising the knowledge sharing and up-levelling the playing fields”.

As mentioned earlier, 5IR/i50 is Cognitive Cyber-Physical System (CCPS) i.e. the human-centric 4IR/i40. If 4IR/i40 is relevant to you because it impacted and continues to impact your customers and ecosystems, then all the more so will 5IR/i50. Given the spiralling global pandemic, the questions that are being asked of all of us now, are on resilience and sustainability. It is not a question of if but when we come out from these pandemic woods, we must be taller than the trees!     

AfricaLive: With reference to tackling climate change, you have stressed that change to business and society must be rapid and effective, saying “We are now confronted by history to do the right things fast. We believe it has to be a collective future leadership.”

Some of the ideas relating to climate change are tough for businesses to accept. For example; reducing consumption, slowing growth, prioritising conservation over profit, and the initial capital expenditure required on sustainable technologies.

How do you address these contradictions between our current economic model and environmental concerns? Is business accepting of the fact that we don’t only need new technologies but new systems and values?

TAN Chee Peng: The emerging economic reboot models coupled with the increasing good governance weight being placed on sustainable development have augured well for planet earth. The continuous effort by UN Global Impact to encourage the company’s value system and a principles-based approach to doing business is bearing fruit as organisations’ reset are being guided by pandemic-recovery resilience and sustainability. More and more corporate leaders are putting their belief that “we are borrowing this Earth from our children” into action. But more is required.

In the Executive Leadership Development (ELD) programme of which comprises the Masterclass – we run in-house for LLCs/MNCs around the world, the emphasis that corporate sustainability is synonymous with sustainable growth has been well-received.  If the pandemic-induced social change teaches us anything, it is the need to serve and strive to be part of the mosaic of all who work for humanity. Together we can accomplish a lot. Although the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward those who believe in value, compassion and might with mercy. Corporates should know that if they refuse to drink from the fountain of selflessness, they will all perish of thirst in the desert of selfishness!

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