How to build your Industry 4.0 strategy
4 minutes | 17 Dec 2020
Since the early 2000s, Industry 4.0 has been a term that’s inspired lots of new thinking and insight in the manufacturing industry. However, when you’re searching through all the articles, videos and webinars on digital transformation, it can be difficult to find what these changes mean for you and your business.
According to a recent KPMG report, 56% of manufacturers see the fourth industrial revolution as an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ for manufacturing. Yet many owners and teams aren’t sure where to start on their journey to becoming Industry 4.0 ready.
At Essentra Components, we’re currently undertaking our own Industry 4.0 transformation. So to help manufacturers set up their own strategy, we’ve asked our experts to share some of their insights and advice.
Assess your challenges
Industry 4.0’s impact on businesses is far-reaching, which means that overcoming its challenges is not a short-term project. However, the technologies and systems of the fourth industrial revolution have the potential to help manufacturers overcome inefficiencies across their business.
When starting to build out a digital transformation strategy, take a look at the challenges you already have in your business. Does your production line suffer from lots of unscheduled downtime? Does your workforce need more thorough digital training? Or is there a disconnect between your production line and customer service?
By outlining these challenges and prioritizing them, you can start to set out definitive objectives that will be the basis of your final strategy.
Once you’ve set out the challenges your business faces, start to look at the improvements you can make using Industry 4.0 technologies. For example, if you want to improve productivity on the shop floor, then it’d be worth investing in a predictive maintenance system, or in machines that are enabled with this feature.
Or if collecting, analyzing and using all of your ‘big data’ is a problem, then you might want to consider a cloud-based solution that will make your processing more efficient.
Depending on the level of involvement each improvement takes, you can start to prioritize quick wins and plan for capital investments as part of a long-term plan. This is particularly important to set out if you’re running a legacy machinery replacement program.
Get buy-in from the top of your business
To face Industry 4.0’s challenges and fulfil its opportunities, you’ve got to have investment from the highest parts of your business. Business owners or directors are the ones who will take responsibility, ask the difficult questions and drive change forward, so it’s important you engage them from the outset.
Get a definitive plan together that sets out the pros and cons of the fourth industrial revolution and how this will impact on your business. Don’t be afraid to set out the costs and potential stumbling blocks in your strategy. To be a true Industry 4.0 business takes time and investment, so setting this out for your company’s leaders from the start will mean they can effectively manage any potential risks later on.
Find a network that can help you
Systems and technologies with greater capabilities hold lots of potential if used correctly. It’s unlikely that you’ll have all of the expertise within your business to take full advantage of every solution, so you’ll need to build a network of external partners who can help you.
Whether it’s trade associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers, suppliers or other businesses, building up a reliable network of industry experts will be an invaluable resource you can call upon when you need it.
Consider upgrading your IT infrastructure
At the base of Industry 4.0 is the Internet of Things (IOT). That is, connecting the digital and physical worlds to improve industrial business models. So, to be ready for the technological demands of the fourth industrial revolution, you’ve got to have the right IT infrastructure in place.
Getting your IT team invested from the start will help you get a full picture of the improvements you need to make. This may mean investing in more cloud storage with Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS), integrating enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, or buying connected devices.
Data and information security should also be a major consideration. The threat of being hacked is very real for manufacturing businesses, so it's essential that you take steps to protect your systems.
You don’t have to turn yourself into a smart factory from day one, but starting out with small changes to your digital infrastructure will save further costs and problems later on.
Run small trials with new technologies
Before you make an investment in new technologies or systems, select an operational area or process where you can carry out an initial test. This can be a small trial looking at how a new piece of technology can boost productivity or increase accuracy. It also gives you the ability to answer important questions such as:
- Does it work in your environment?
- Is it something your team is comfortable with using?
- Is it providing you with the data you need to improve your efficiency?
From this initial test, you can weigh up the pros and cons of particular products or services before investing, so you know for certain that there are no better options out there for your business.
Invest in your team’s skills
Having lots of technology is great, but if your team doesn't understand what it is or how it works, you won’t be able to harness its full potential. Engage your workforce with the changes from the beginning of the project. Explain the demands of the new technology and what will be expected of them.
These changes are likely to mean that you’ll need to invest in upskilling current workers or even hiring new talent. Keep this in mind when planning your strategy and when creating internal communication about the changes you’re making.
Focus on continuous improvement
After each stage of the project, hold meetings with relevant teams and departments to see what went well and what can be improved. Digital-enabled technologies will mean you’ll have a wealth of data to analyze, so you can really get into the detail of areas you need to improve.
Turning into an Industry 4.0 ready business is a long-term project, so by making these regular continuous improvements, you can make sure you’re on track to fulfil your objectives and feel the benefits of digital transformation.
How is Essentra Components approaching Industry 4.0?
Over the last few years, our team have been working on a long-term Industry 4.0 strategy with the aim of making a truly hassle-free customer service. As well as upgrading our production line, we’ve improved our systems and processes to enable better communication across our business, become more efficient and benefit our customers. Find out more about how we’ve achieved this in our video with Divisional Managing Director Scott Fawcett.