While technology is of course a key enabler of Industry 4.0, this latest industrial revolution can never be all about technology, people are at its heart. Mark Breeden, senior account manager at HSO, explains why.
In an increasingly competitive landscape, manufacturers understand they will need to adapt their business model to take advantage of the opportunities of digitalisation and the manifold opportunities that the move to Industry 4.0 presents.
More and more are looking to adopt a fully connected approach that leverages the benefits of the cloud, the Internet of Things, data analytics and the like to help them make accurate business decisions and ensure they deliver the best possible product at the best possible price with the best possible service.
Being successful in that aim is about far more than just implementing the right technology, however. In a sense, it’s bound up with evolving the definition of the well-used term, connected manufacturing.
Traditionally, that has been associated with linking together the core components of the chain, in order to develop and manufacture the product – from the supplier to the production line, reseller or distributor and finally end customer.
In this model, the customer connection is key, enabling businesses to gather feedback about a product and use it to help shape the evolution of the product itself and the services associated with it.
The importance of connectivity within the organisation is perhaps less well appreciated – but it is equally key.
Any successful Industry 4.0 project will need a sponsor at the top of the business who has a vision of the end goal and how it needs to be delivered. But there also needs to be a clear focus on connecting with users within the organisation and ensuring they buy in to the aims and objectives.
As Chandru Shankar, manufacturing industry director, EMEA, Microsoft Business Solutions puts it, “There needs to be a broad cross-organisational buy-in for any Industry 4.0 initiative to work effectively.
“Users need to believe that any project will help them in their work for the business. Even if the technology is innovative, it won’t have a positive impact unless workers embrace it, and use it to advance the business goals”.
Good change management is key, of course. Users need to understand specifically how the changes will help them carry out their tasks more quickly and efficiently and the precise way any new processes will work.
The technology needs to be presented to them in a way that is simple and easy to understand.
That’s one aspect. However, Industry 4.0 also needs to support and nurture the creativity of users – and their innate desire to try out new ways of doing things that have the potential to help them in their own work and help the business in the long run.
According to Mike Stanbridge, enterprise systems director for AB Agri, “The most successful projects often stem from businesses being open and giving their employees the freedom to be creative to look at existing processes and apply ‘what if scenarios’ to them.
“In other words, can we enhance this process and make it faster and more efficient by applying elements of the Industry 4.0 approach to it?”
A successful roll-out of one of these small-scale projects can help quickly build commitment and influencer and decision-maker buy-in. Gaining that trust and level of commitment from stakeholders early in the process is key because as you implement other elements of the strategy in the future, it’s important to have champions inside the company who stay onside even when hiccups occur along the way.
It’s yet another example of the fact that while technology is of course a key enabler of Industry 4.0, this latest industrial revolution can never be all about technology, people are at its heart and will ultimately be fundamental in driving its success.
Download the latest Microsoft whitepaper, Thoughts on Global Workforce Transformation in the Industry 4.0 Era.