Posted on 4/4/2018

Putting Trust in Action: A Delivery Guide to Industry 4.0 for small to midsize companies

Jeeva Nadarajah

We humans are more driven when we understand the value of what we are pursuing. In order to walk through this delivery guide, it is critical to understand the value of Industry 4.0. So, let's rehash the "why" for Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is the initiative to create smart factories. Industry 4.0 is characterized by the fusion of the physical and virtual worlds, driven by eight technologies: 

  1. Additive Manufacturing and Advanced Materials
  2. Artificial Intelligence
  3. Big Data
  4. Cloud Computing
  5. Cybersecurity
  6. MSVI (Modeling, Simulation, Visualization and Immersion)
  7. Robotics 
  8. The Industrial Internet of Things. 

It’s an industry-wide push to make things as intuitive, efficient, and valuable as possible.

According to a PWC study by Reinhard Geissbauer, Jesper Vedsø, and Stefan Schrauf, a majority of companies are investing in Smart Factories so that they can make informed choices when it comes to tackling the most difficult problems, such as:

  • The full digitization of a company’s operations
  • The redesign of products and services 
  • Closer interaction with customers

Making Industry 4.0 work requires major shifts in organizational practices and structures. These shifts include new forms of IT architecture and data management, new approaches to regulatory and tax compliance, new organizational structures, and—most importantly—a new, digitally-oriented culture which embraces data analytics as a core enterprise capability. 

Some common obstacles to reaching this desired state include poor data quality, lack of access to the right data, and lack of top-level support.

For smaller companies that are strapped for resources, the most challenging problem may be to figure out what a roadmap to Industry 4.0 looks like.

The Goal: Track everything we produce from cradle to grave and make that information "Big and Visible" across the organization so that we can make intelligent decisions.

Why: Gaining insight into the cost of a widget will expand our understanding of the landscape and the value of each individual period of its life cycle, therefore allowing us to innovate and adjust. Making information "Big and Visible" to the key players on the factory floor expands their understanding and emotional investment to the purpose of the factory. 

How: The rest of this article will expand on the tactics. 

Identify the strategy: As with any business initiative, engagement and buy-in from leadership are crucial to creating successful outcomes.

Taking a step back and identifying where we are on the path to Industry 4.0 will help define a strategy to move the needle forward. A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of our business will identify a couple of key areas to work on.

Some tactics that can be used here to maintain a balanced portfolio that addresses internal and external gaps are to use rapid ideation techniques to gain employee and customer feedback.

Tactics :

Identify a company wide goal

The mantra here is "Minimum Viable Product (MVP)" 

MVP is a term introduced in the book Lean Startup. It stresses the impact of learning in new product development. Eric Ries defined an MVP as the version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

"Maximum value with minimal effort." Let's repeat that a hundred times, and promise to remember.

In our case, the implementation of Industry 4.0 is the product. The value this product brings should directly tie into the daily tasks of running operations. Therefore, when we define an MVP we have to be very specific about the value it brings to the operations of the factory floor.

For example, an MVP as simple as: "We will have monitors displaying the current inventory numbers on the shop floor so that workers do not have to leave the room to check the inventory and thereby save the company 10 minutes per worker 3 times a day" is a good start.

Identify your area product owner(s)

The mantra here is "Team"

We need to recruit product owners from our company who know the daily operations and understand what the overall strategy is. These key people then start to identify MVPs, prioritize them and implement them. Having our company leadership as part of this commitment ceremony is important.


The mantra here is "demonstrable value at a regular interval"

The product owners work on delivering a piece of work from their department that directly contributes to the larger outcome for the Smart Factory. This piece is demonstrated to the rest of the stakeholders but should also work in alignment with other department initiatives. A companywide product owner (strategic sponsor) helps this process by being part of product demonstrations. Feedback is gathered from participants to tweak the system and improve it.


The mantra here is "users should use the system"

Adoption is critical to drive ROI and innovation. Remember, we started this guide with humans being driven when they understand the “why.” So now that we have something built that is useful, we need to help users adopt it.

From one-on-one or group sessions to handbooks and coaching, this process and the feedback we receive then feeds back into the innovation pipeline.

Ultimately, technology is driven by the speed of adoption. Users decide whether something is valuable or not. That user maybe an employee, a customer, or those running the operations. We must make sure that what we build is being used, not because it's dictated so, but because the user chooses to is the key to success

About the Author

Jeeva Nadarajah | Pillar Technology

Jeeva Nadarajah is an Executive Growth Consultant for Pillar Technology bridging the gap between sales, marketing, operations, product delivery and craftsmanship. Innovating on adoption mechanisms that create opportunities for the Pillar growth team to connect with the rest of Pillar and external influencers. Triggering growth in People, growth in Pillar and growth in our community.

Her background spans 15 years of software craftsmanship and delivery excellence with a background in data analytics and advertising. She holds a masters degree in information science and bachelors degree in mathematics and statistics.


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