Getting ready for Industry 4.0

It’s called the fourth industrial revolution, superseding the first (steam power), the second (computerization) and the third (digitization).

Industry 4.0 goes beyond the previous revolution by employing artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and remote dashboards that measure everything imaginable. Companies in all industries are turning to Industry 4.0’s automation and data exchange to boost their operations by building efficiencies in production. Hold on to your hats and get ready to embrace it.

The DNA and “plumbing” of Industry 4.0 include sensors and other hardware, a labyrinth of wiring, dashboards and flat-screen monitors aglow with beautifully portrayed performance indicators. Workers digest, monitor and assimilate this information.

Companies across Western Pennsylvania should be getting ready to take on Industry 4.0. If you don’t, you can be sure your competitors will.

Step carefully

Industry 4.0 can and should be implemented incrementally. It doesn’t need to be put in place in one shutdown.
An incremental implementation is a best practice that enables companies to refine and fine-tune the hardware and software within their production lines. Furthermore, they can decide what technology to invest in next and also know which technology to avoid.

In tandem with incremental implementation, pay careful attention to winning the hearts and minds of workers. Implementing Industry 4.0 is an exercise in change management. Because this digitization automates the workforce, there’s a fear to be reconciled with many workers: automation anxiety. “Will Industry 4.0 take my job away?” That’s the inner voice of many as you begin to implement. This requires leaders to carefully manage cultural integration.

Winning hearts and minds

Cultural integration can be one of the greatest challenges of Industry 4.0. Workers need to learn the application interfaces, how they work, what the data are all about and how to use them.

In light of this notion, foster an understanding that the wonderment of Industry 4.0 doesn’t mean job replacer. Rather, it’s a job recreator. It redirects the workforce to become digital warriors, smart thinkers on the shop floor, able to interpret data and use them wisely. It’s an opportunity for leadership to help employees understand that this digital fabric of the shop floor is a secret sauce to help them be more competitive.

The quicker that workers adopt and understand digital automation and the advent of Industry 4.0, the quicker they can contribute to the overall profitability of the company. Entrepreneur Vijay Eswaran wrote in Chief Executive magazine that, “If we look back at the last 100 years, technology has always changed the world, and more often than not, for the better. What’s important to remember is that technology isn’t creating jobs, people are.” Reaffirm this message among the workforce.

Industry 4.0 can be intimidating and overwhelming. It may require significant capital investment and training. However, most of all, it requires a cultural adjustment.

In spite of the hurdles and obstacles, those who do not adopt it will be left behind. Those who take it on stand to discover the next thoroughfare of their success by enabling better production with quality and economy.

 

Eric D. Miller is the president of Miller Fabrication Solutions, a strategic partner offering metal part manufacturing and value-added solutions for global OEMs across oil and gas, mining, material handling, construction equipment and other heavy equipment industries. Eric is the third generation of family leadership for the Brookville, Pennsylvania-based business.