Intel provides some incredible insights about cultural changes and transforming your business to be Industry 4.0 ready.
Predictions about Industry 4.0 are everywhere. Autonomous machines will self-monitor and organize their own maintenance. Customized products will be built on highly flexible production floors that link to inventory systems, with just-in-time delivery of needed parts without human intervention.
But what does it take to get from where most companies are today to a future where these predictions are reality? Intel Corporation has been working with over 400 manufacturers and their ecosystem partners to better understand how this transition actually plays out—and they’ve discovered some interesting things.
The Power of Vision
First, most of the companies Intel is talking to are following the advice of pundits: Start small. They focus on point solution pilot or proof of concept projects. But even when these projects are successful these islands of excellence are often not scalable because larger integration challenges were neglected. Companies instead should be following the mantra: Think Big, Start Small. Without a vision for what Industry 4.0 tools and technologies could do for your factory, how can you know whether or not progress is being achieved?
It Takes More than Technology
Another challenge could be dubbed “If I have the technology, problem solved.” For example, a predictive maintenance solution requires an understanding of the forces that impede machine performance.
But it requires that the data exist and can be collected in a form useful across systems. Among the companies Intel works with, lack of information in a suitable form, sharable across organizational silos and available in a timely manner were top of mind obstacles to Industry 4.0 transformation.
A third hurdle to Industry 4.0 transformation is corporate culture. For some, the ROI is too unclear to be decision-ready, particularly when considering risks. While others want to try “something” just to get started and learn. Both thought patterns miss the mark. The problem lies not in how to get started, but in how to grow teams that can define the problem space, assess the options and understand how to gauge value add of any particular solution in terms of metrics that drive operational performance and business value.
Convergence & Empowerment are Essential to Industry 4.0 Transformation
Industry 4.0 success also requires a convergence of cultures. In a transformation being driven by digital technologies, operational excellence and experience (OT) must be merged with that of information technology (IT). Having one without the other results in: (1) great operational ideas that lack the digital infrastructure needed to be sustainable; or (2) advances in IT systems that fail to be deployed in the factory because their value cannot be described in metrics that reflect operating imperatives.
The solution is very simple—but hard to achieve. We must build an organizational culture where IT and OT converge. And it’s not just OT and IT professionals who will need to be involved. Manufacturing expertise resides throughout the factory. While individuals at all levels see a mandate for change, they often do not feel empowered today to discover, test and deploy new ways of working with these technologies. Convergence and empowerment—two concepts that are rarely linked.
Industry 4.0 Requires Organizational Changes
The organizational silos that have supported economies of scale production may not be well-suited to Industry 4.0. The resulting siloed decision-making is often a hindrance in the rapidly changing world of Industry 4.0. A colleague who works with robot deployment noted that the U.S. is well behind Japan in the use of collaborative robotics (cobots). The main reason, he asserts, is that in Japan managers—from maintenance to first-shift supervisors to controls specialists—are empowered with both funding and decision-making autonomy. Without that, he contends, the focus of real problems gets lost in the corporate accounting shuffle.
Companies serious about Industry 4.0 transformation need to embark on a journey that will encompass their people, their processes, their operating technologies and their organization. While the first three have gotten more attention in the past couple of years, it is the latter—organization—that may be the biggest barrier to change.