Industry 4.0

Digitalisation of value chains with focus on bringing innovation back to the shop floor.

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Digital transformation of operations

We believe that Industry 4.0 is not a finite system or thing – it is a natural evolution using technology to add intelligence to all existing assets of our current manufacturing/supply system. The main intention of the exercise is to drive efficiency, flexibility and lower operating expenses throughout production.

Many companies tend to focus on technology first, forgetting to anchor it in the real issues and linking it to the actual problems on the shop floor. This strategy of “going full gadgets” is tempting, but it rarely creates any real impact.

Our approach 

Our approach to Industry 4.0 aims to tackle this challenge and is quite simple: think big, start small and scale fast. Based on fast prototyping of ideas in order to create impact fast.

  • Think BIG – where it is shown what Industry 4.0 is and what it is not, demonstrate technologies, create a gap from current to future state and set the success criteria for such a project. Examples can be: Software robotics, AI, automation of manufacturing processes with co-bots, scheduling and planning in real time, predictive maintenance and fully automated material handling.
  • Start small – focussing on the most critical parts of your factory training and testing technologies – fast prototyping. Here the important thing is to bring the mentioned technologies to test in real production, bringing people along, bridging the capabilities necessary for success and showing the impact case (e.g. lead time reduction, quality improvement, lower cost base). 
  • Scale FAST solutions to other areas. This ensures the sustainability of the solution but also increases the impact on the bottom line. And finally it is important to scale the solutions to other areas in the factories or across factories, leveraging in the technology but most important in the capabilities that are created in house.

Hype vs. value

A lot of companies struggle to distinguish hype from actual value within Industry 4.0. An underlying reason is the confusion that arises from a conversation that is focused mostly on technology, IT requirements and enablers. Some questions remain unanswered: How often is a company’s Industry 4.0 strategy and operations strategy aligned? How can the shop floor best support this innovation and pursuit of new solutions?

At Implement, we have a long track record of working on manufacturing projects, and we believe in addressing Industry 4.0 as an evolution to Lean management, enhanced with some new technology enablers. However, even though new technologies open the door for new possibilities and ways of re-designing processes, they must still be firmly supported by business cases and operational performance. These should always be the starting point. Furthermore, we support a sprint methodology that quickly allows for prototyping and testing for impact, without disrupting day-to-day operations commitments.

An example from a real-life project

In a recent case, a leading jewellery company asked for support to reduce lead times, improve productivity and reduce quality issues in a high product mix context with little-to-no visibility of ongoing operations.

Implement supported the company on the journey to including continuous data capture within production, using it for real-time scheduling and rebalancing of production lines. Furthermore, displays with KPIs and SOPs helped operators to become more efficient while reducing quality mistakes.

The average lead time was reduced by over 50% and quality issues were also reduced by 50% which resulted in a total productivity increase of 15%.

Implement’s approach has helped organisations address their uncertainties around Industry 4.0. By helping them first to understand their needs and performance objectives, we’re able to spend time and investments on the right things from day one. Additionally, considering the novelty of this area, we have also succeeded in the developing capabilities that allow the organisation to be fit to manage changes in the environment in an independent way.

The transformation towards a more digitised organisation that can utilise the possible benefits of Industry 4.0 trends and technologies requires focus on new workforce roles, flexible working arrangements and technical skill development. Just as with any Lean (cultural) transformation, the benefits are hard to realise without enabling and supporting the workforce with a new way of working. As with most organisational transformations, it’s a people’s game.