Is Your Organization Ready to Move to Industry 4.0?

Is Your Organization Ready to Move to Industry 4.0?
Author: Tom Rombouts, 4.0 Director, I-care Group
Date Posted: 05.16.22
Bird’s eye view of a manufacturing plant using advanced digital technology


Moving to Industry 4.0 — Is Your Organization Ready?

With the Industry 4.0 market expected to grow from $70 billion (in 2019) to $210 billion by 20261, there is no doubt the time has arrived for this “next evolution” in manufacturing. As a result, many facility leaders are ready to enjoy the promise of Industry 4.0 as soon as they can.

While such a desire is sensible, it may also be risky. Industry 4.0 can boost manufacturing outcomes, but it isn’t a guaranteed cure-all. Companies cannot hit the ground running as soon as they “adopt” it. Rather, moving successfully to Industry 4.0 requires a thoughtful, well-executed plan that involves assessments, strategic planning and shifts in company culture. It can also include technology improvements, including data security.

Will these activities delay the adoption? While this is possible, at I-care we don’t think of it as a delay. We consider it an important step for success — and one that ensures all bases are covered. Moving to Industry 4.0 with care will reduce the odds of a failed effort. No one, from the board room to the plant floor, wants that outcome.

As someone who has been deeply involved with Industry 4.0 for many years — and as I-care’s designated expert in this area — I offer you my insights.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is not a method or an approach. It is the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the advance of manufacturing tools to adopt modern methods. It consists of three elements:

  • Speed — affected industries may be displaced at a rapid speed
  • Scope and systems impact — A variety of companies and the systems they use to achieve goals may be affected by companies
  • Strong shift in technology plan — new policies will drive innovation

Technologies often embraced in Industry 4.0 programs include (but are not limited to) data connectivity, automation, IIoT (the Industrial Internet of things), artificial intelligence (AI), software, robots, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

This is a broad definition that doesn’t provide much insight, so let’s go deeper. In short, Industry 4.0 is a fundamental shift in traditional manufacturing and industrial practices to make use of modern, smart technologies. As part of this approach, newer equipment is often self-monitoring and may be equipped to identify, analyze and adjust for problems without human involvement.

This ability requires data collection, with the data combined, processed and analyzed. In doing so, it elevates artificial intelligence to what we at I-care call “augmented intelligence” — insight that has been enhanced with the help of both data scientists and seasoned field experts empowering companies and their staffs to engage in a wide array of decision making.

Where Industry 4.0 Can Veer Off-Course

While the potential of Industry 4.0 is exciting, the results can be problematic. For many years, data scientists have handled data analysis. Their position has been, “Give me your data and I will provide you with the necessary insights.” Although this offer may seem tempting, it can be a barrier to success, especially when emerging approaches and methods are involved.

Data scientists may be able to interpret the data, but that doesn’t mean they understand industrial production processes, nor are they the most informed about how to apply it in the field. In addition, modern sensors in manufacturing equipment can produce a huge amount of data that must be used properly to valorize it in the field.

In my experience, it is essential that executive leaders who plan to apply 4.0 methods either hire or partner with subject-matter experts — people who know what they are talking about. The options are varied and include reliability engineering specialists, operations and IT managers, statisticians and data scientists.

The team should include a range of skillsets, from predictive maintenance to vibration analysts, from Process engineers to Reliability engineers. I cannot stress this last point more firmly. Variety in Industry 4.0 teams will ensure that the right challenges are addressed that, if properly implemented, will lead to business value. If an industrial firm does not have the in-house expertise to cover all these specialties (and few do), they should look for an outside partner that can provide these skillsets and not just the technology.

In a future blog, I will drill into a proven data analysis approach that helps business leaders fine-tune their decision-making process at three strategic levels. To be added to our list of blog subscribers, click here.

Interested in starting a conversation with Tom? Connect with him here on LinkedIn.


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