How to Accelerate Results from Industry 4.0 Initiatives


June 3, 2021

Industry 4.0 Initiatives

According to McKinsey, Industry 4.0 can increase productivity up to 40%, potentially adding hundreds of billions of dollars and 1.5 million jobs to the U.S. economy alone by 2030.

And yet, ROI can still be elusive for manufacturers pursuing digital transformation.

In some cases, the problem comes when technology is just a hammer looking for a nail. In others, struggles with user adoption slow progress and can even result in project failure.

Here we examine strategies for accelerating results from Industry 4.0 initiatives, including considerations for the team, the vision and the resources you need.

Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen Covey’s advice from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People holds true in the context of Industry 4.0 initiatives: to be successful, you must begin with the end in mind.

Embarking on digital transformation just for the sake of it isn’t effective, such as when companies look for a problem to solve with artificial intelligence (AI). Before you start, you need to answer questions such as:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • What are your goals?
  • What will you use to measure progress?
  • How do you define success?

Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll have what you need to create a roadmap to get where you want to go.

Start Small

As manufacturing exec Casper Zublin noted in a recent Q&A, “You can spend a lot of time strategizing where and how, but the important thing is just to start.”

Starting with a small Industry 4.0 project can be a good way to get your feet wet and help build momentum. For many EASE customers, deploying plant floor audit software is one of their first digital transformation projects. A rollout that takes days rather than months helps deliver early wins that make a real impact on quality, where even one quality escape avoided can equal positive ROI.

Commit to the Resources Needed

No Industry 4.0 initiative can survive without the proper resources backing up the project. Resources you’ll need to commit include:

  • Budget: Investment is critical to digital transformation, but it’s worth looking at projects that limit capital outlays such as cloud-based software.
  • Leadership: For any initiative that requires people to do things differently, having leaders on board is essential to team buy-in.
  • Management: If you can’t prioritize the project in terms of ongoing monitoring and management, it’s doomed to failure.

Focus on Data and Insights

Getting the most from your data is essential to accelerating digital transformation ROI. To get there, you need to:

  • Involve IT from the start so you can push and pull data across various systems, such as incorporating plant floor data into business intelligence tools.
  • Set up dashboards that can be monitored daily based on the individual’s scope of work and responsibilities.
  • Track KPIs and communicate results with the front line, such as displaying metrics on plant floor screens.

Send the Right Message

In any digital transformation initiative, you’ll likely run into resistance from people fearful of losing their jobs to automation. Getting these people on board can help accelerate results, adding momentum as more people use the technology.

So how do you actually do this in practice?

Design solutions that actually help people do their jobs better. Digital initiatives should be clearly tied to organizational goals, whether it’s reducing inefficiency and waste, standardizing work or capturing undocumented knowledge that keeps the plant running smoothly.

Bring the Right People Together

Listen to any discussion on Industry 4.0 and one concept is bound to come up: involving those who will use the technology daily. Without their buy-in, you risk user adoption failure and put the entire project in jeopardy.

For example, if you deploy plant floor audit software like EASE, you’ll need to bring operations to the table, in addition to quality, IT and leadership. Getting operator input when setting up the software—such as writing audit questions tailored to specific work processes—gives you better data and insights into plant floor risks.

Digital transformation as a pandemic exit strategy is something few companies can afford to ignore, yet many companies are hesitant to jump in. Choosing initiatives that address clear business goals, communicating with your team and celebrating early wins all help deliver faster results while also building momentum for future projects.

  • Download a free case study to learn how Jacobs Vehicle Systems replaced its paper visual management system with EASE to increase audit completion rates 40%