In boardroom and executive committee sessions everywhere, manufacturers are discussing their next steps to achieve an Industry 4.0 (or Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)) future.
And while the desire is definitely there, it’s the path that’s unclear. Why is this vision hard to achieve and what are the forces dragging down the adoption of innovations?
What many may not realize is that Industry 4.0 may not be immediately possible in facilities that have been starved for capital, have antiquated or poor performing operations, paper-based systems, etc. One has to deal with the dysfunctionality prior to achieving these aspirational goals.
Industry 4.0 defines a new data-rich manufacturing world powered by the output from capital equipment, sensors, scanners, customer reviews, suppliers, etc. This data is being used to enrich techniques, tools and insights possible in manufacturing today. Big data, dark data, unstructured/ structured data, biometric, geospatial, and many other kinds of data are being utilized by new powerful analytic tools, machine learning algorithms, augmented reality tools and much more.
In our interviews and site visits, the move to Industry 4.0 is happening in two distinct paths. For many firms, their first focus is to bring new digital capabilities to their internal facilities, equipment, workforce, etc.
That inwardly focused approach is often needed before considering a more externally focused Industry 4.0 approach. The inward approach often captures many new kinds of data at far more granular levels. It also focuses on: improving worker productivity; providing greater machine-to-machine integration; the acquisition of new manufacturing technologies; and, adding new quality and traceability capabilities.
The good news is that reinvestment in manufacturing is underway.
Capital budgets are getting greenlit and improvements to the physical plant, machine tools, and IT are occurring. This change in investment thinking is long overdue and more strategic than ever. Furthermore, the investment priorities are often dependent on the current state of affairs within each facility. For some, the physical plant requires overdue rehabilitation. Some need upgraded (or net-new) technology to close critical process and/or information gaps. Also, some need improved processes and others are looking to transform their offerings to customers. All in all, there is a competitive need to craft a modern, digital connection between systems, capital machines, products, people and more.
How will your firm achieve a more digital future? The best firms will be keenly self-aware of their own situation as well as deeply knowledgeable of the technologies now available to them. In the process, each will likely develop a new, curious path to an Industry 4.0 future.
One thing that’s abundantly clear is this: incremental change won’t win the race. It will take considered thought, vision and strategy. Those that choose leadership will win, while those that lurch from one incremental patch to another will not. What approach will your firm take?