The first thing we can do to understand revolution versus evolution is to turn to the pure definition of these two words. The word evolution˜refers to the gradual development or changes in something over a period.

The word˜revolution˜means ‘a turnaround’— a sudden, complete, or radical change in something. ˜This actually fits with other definitions of revolution ˜as not only a “fundamental” change, but also occurring in a “staggeringly” short period.

However, just for the sake of argument, if we were to focus just on the time factor to distinguish the two, it could get even murkier.

Mechanically, if you will, we refer to a revolution as one turn of an operation. The piston of a car engine can work at as much as 5,000 revolutions per minute.

Naturally, the earth revolves on its access every 24 hours. A rotation of the earth around the sun takes a year. We can also reference the natural process of the evaporation of water and the clouds release of that water as rain, which, for a single drop of water, can take anywhere from nine days to 3,000 years.

Obviously, what we are missing here is “change.” With these examples, we are talking about cycles, ones that repeat, but do not change.

When we talk of revolution in the context of change, we most commonly think of the changes in the ideological or political environment of governments, usually precipitated by very divisive conflict. While these conflicts can take years to resolve, they are more often than not very decisive as well.

Evolution can provide for the same decisive change, but usually not synonymous with the bloodshed and sacrifice thought of with revolution. Technology is a good example. Some would argue the timeframe or the rise of technology, such as the computer, has been, and is, significant, but technology has been evolving since the advent of the computer. Granted, there was a great deal of progress in between, but it took us quite some time to go from the discovery of the electron to computers that fit in the palm of our hands, all with comparatively less loss of life than the revolutions described earlier.

Which brings me to the term “industrial revolution.” We are now in the midst of what is being called the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. The idea that it is the fourth, to me, might suggest a cycle. A cycle that is marked by a fundamental change that repeats— more accurately progresses—until another fundamental change begins the next “revolution,” or cycle.

Take, for instance, sensors. Anyone who drives a toll road knows of EZPass or iPass, systems that allow travelers to pay the toll electronically via a sensor in your car. It has been around for years. Until recently, the technology still required vehicles to slow down to trigger the sensor and, as with many technologies, took some time for consumers to adopt and opt-in to the use of the technology, all which did little, at first, to alleviate congestion when entering and exiting these toll roads. Today, high-speed sensors and more drivers utilizing the system, make it unnecessary to even slow down to accomplish “taking the toll.”

So whether you view it as the fourth industrial revolution or evolution, check out “A Pulse on Quality 4.0 for Medical Device Manufacturing,” “Automated Metrology: Manufacturing Trend of the Future,” and everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Darryl Seland,

Editorial Director