smart industry

Fact or myth: success with Industry 4.0 doesn't depend on technology

21 October 2020

Smart Industry

Industry 4.0 has the capacity to improve a company's sustainable growth, competitiveness and capacity for innovation. New opportunities may also open up for employees; it is highly unlikely that they will simply be replaced by robots. Where robots and automation cannot deliver – especially where there is a need for complex action, creativity, experience or decision-making in unexpected situations – human workers will still be essential. In other words, Smart Industry is not solely about technology. It is also important to focus on the other – and probably more significant – added values.

The open door: your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) will improve

People often think in terms of sensors, data and algorithms, which contribute to the development of Smart Industry in that they improve the efficiency of a production environment. Beyond this, though, are new insights that can also help you to coordinate your production line more effectively and see your OEE increase sharply as a result. These new insights may also lead to a better PUE (power utilization efficiency) or reduced waste.

It is especially important to have a clear goal in mind. What do you want this new technology to achieve for you? Be sure to take a long, hard look at the broader picture: added value isn't found only in manufacturing excellence. Your goal might also be to build a future-proof IT architecture. You may also be focusing on product innovation or providing a better experience for your customers. Zoom out and take a look at where you want or need to make a difference. Industry 4.0 implementation can genuinely add value for almost every stakeholder – from society in general to the end customer, and not least for your employees.

smart industry

A chicken and egg situation: skilled employees and a successful Smart Industry

Everyone can use technology; what will set your company apart is the people who will end up working with it in practice. Discovering and deploying the right talents will ensure Smart Industry is a success.

Intelligent processes systematically increase the complexity of the jobs in a plant. Disruption will occur less frequently, but the use of smart algorithms will often make the jobs more complicated. Employees will therefore need to have much more specialised knowledge rooted in experience than ever before. On the other hand, current working conditions, such as shifts and shift work, are usually not an attractive proposition for highly trained technicians.

The switch from physical and repetitive activities to creative work requires the development of new skills and a change of mindset among current employees. As a company, you have to invest in this mental change, teaching people about this new way of working. Also provide training courses to close the digital skills gap.

This fourth industrial (r)evolution will not be a sudden tsunami; it is a complex combination of social and technological changes. In other words: small steps that eventually lead to a significant transformation. We have already come a long way toward finding the answer to the following question: What changes are needed to your business structure, thinking and culture to give employees the space to embrace Smart Industry and to keep on learning?

This blog is the fourth in a series where we discuss the facts and myths about digitalization in the industrial sector. The first three myths have already been dispelled, while this fourth and final one still persists.

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