In January this year, Prime Minister Theresa May identified Industry 4.0 as one of the key programmes the Government would directly support in post-Brexit Britain. She described a “modern industrial strategy” that the Government would take an active role in to drive improved productivity and economic growth.

So why has Industry 4.0 yet to have a significant positive impact? Why have Companies failed to establish credible roll out plans and apart from the big boys, seem to have little interest in trying to understand the “what” and the “how” and how it may benefit them?

What is Industry 4.0? Whilst we are at it, what is the “Internet of Things” and what is “Digitalisation”? As part of her pitch on Industry 4.0 Theresa May spoke of cyber-systems being key to future Government strategy – what does that mean to a Manufacturer still wrestling with the challenge of surviving in Britain today.

With language like this, understanding and therefore credibility remains low. Many even consider Industry 4.0 to be: –

  1. The next virtual millennium bug designed to allow expensive consultants to make profits from already strained budgets?
  2. An academic game being played by Universities to throw mystic over their already none practical research programmes?
  3. Something that Operations should be doing, as it doesn’t affect any other function in the organisation?

The fact that digital technology, when applied in an appropriate way, a way that is tailored to suit an organisation, can deliver step change benefits to the whole business is not clearly understood and embraced.

The Industry 4.0 journey is just that. There is no “one size fits all” solution to the way in which businesses need to become enabled in Industry 4.0 methodology. We must first address some very basic issues: –

  1. Do we have good data that is accurate and maintained within a central system?
  2. Do we have Processes and Procedures that allow us to use data to manage today and tomorrow?
  3. Do we have appropriate Leadership and Culture that supports the structured approach to managing data and systems effectively?
  4. Do we have a strategy to support the change process through the transformation to the new digital world?

Only when the above questions have been addressed can we develop a Roadmap of sequenced and tailored actions that bring benefits in cost and or customer satisfaction as we progress along the journey.

So rather than showing off using the jargon, what businesses need is help with defining what it is they need to do to reap the benefits that digital technology can undoubtably deliver.

The traditional consultancy sell may work for some but to get real traction and sustainability the organisation needs to do it to itself rather than have it done to them.

Only when we start to discuss Industry 4.0 in a practical way that businesses can understand how it could positively affect them will the whole digital transformation concept be embraced and delivery the benefits to UK PLC.

Dave Murray June 2018