Industry 4.0, Explore

Most manufacturing organizations are just embarking on the revolution known as Industry 4.0. Many cite inhibiting barriers that include acquiring sufficient knowledge to choose among emerging options, difficulties in coordinating Industry 4.0 activities across different organizational units, concerns about IoT-related cybersecurity and data ownership. Ultimately, the foremost barrier may not be particularly revolutionary at all. That barrier is change.

It is not just resistance to change. For many of us, it is human nature to find levels of comfort and stick with them. Internal change as a choice will always require personal motivation.

Industry 4.0 Elevates the Rate of Change

What Industry 4.0 does is elevate the external rate of change to a point that our comfort levels are rendered mute and the choice to change is not based on internal motivation. Manufacturers are dealing with changing demands that do more than suggest that change is coming. These changes are happening with or without a response. The ability to respond to the barrage of constant change may be the trait that allows some to evolve while others fall to endangered status.

Many of our legacy clichés just don’t work. The period of “Work smarter, not harder” may be over. We may have to replace the motto above the shop floor to “Be adaptable, not smarter.” The emergence of advanced technologies allows manufacturers to change not just what they do, but to change how they prepare for the next change.

Is IoT the Recipe for Better Insights?

For example, on the surface, IoT is a great way to get more data from a critical process or asset. A sprinkle of extra data and dash of machine learning might provide insights that drive better yields or avoid unplanned downtime. That is a good enough story but there is more to it.  The “how” it’s done is just as important as the “what” is done. Legacy approaches would have required thick solutions of rigid connectivity and layers of data aggregation. These solutions could have provided some results but with a diminished ROI. The legacy solution would have resisted change and simple adjustments like moving the asset to another plant across the globe would have broken down the solution and required rebuilding.

IoT by its nature avoids the layers of rigidity. Access to the asset is fluid and flexible. Eliminating layers and historical baggage allows IoT to keep pace with the inevitable changes. This concept paired with the lightness of application also greatly expands the scope of what changes can be addressed. Why evaluate only a single critical asset when the technology can be readily applied to all of your assets?

Join us at Explore this year to hear how your fellow manufacturers are responding to, but more importantly, preparing for change. I will lead an Industrial and High Tech session that features a major magnetic wire manufacturing story of moving from demand planning with a spreadsheet to a set of modern analytic and decision support tools. Can you push your organization away from the pivot table?

The good news for manufacturing is that “it ain’t over until it’s over.” Some old dogs will learn new tricks. Curiosity may have seriously damaged the cat, but listening to real manufacturing success stories may give you even more than nine lives.

Let us embark on this Industry 4.0 revolution together. See you in Dallas!