Over the last several months I have been like a “dog with a bone” with my concerns and insistence that there is a risk that Factory 4.0 and the digital transformation will go the same route of many failed lean transformations. The foundation of my concern is that Factory 4.0 will be about the digital tools first and not about purpose first. Digital tools should be viewed and used as enablers of a Factory 4.0 lean vision, not as the objective.
Last year I was visiting with a client that was introducing Google Glass into their assembly processes. Google Glass was “cool” and there was a lot of excitement and interest. We ultimately had discussions about what problems they were trying to solve and/or what’s was the value-added connection desired. Fast forward to today. They asked the right questions. Google Glass wasn’t the best answer. Google “safety” Glass was the best answer. Shifts in their business conditions and volumes result in a revolving workforce. Each time volumes increased and the employee population changed and/or grew they suffered the associated growing pains in efficiency and effectiveness. The solution: “assure that all employees can easily, visually and quickly access SWI’s for 3×3 cross-training and effective assimilation of new employees”. Simply put, minimize the variability and pain of the peaks and valleys. Google Glass is working and the plant is being benchmarked by major organizations, many of which previously failed with the application. However, there are issues. They have struggled with the Google Glass voice recognition. The voice recognition feature was not accurately recognizing the problem descriptions at final inspection. They later realized it wasn’t a technical issue, it was a problem description issue. Develop a menu of effectively described common and/or extreme problems that can be simply “tapped” and alert the appropriate 1st responder. Ask this question first, what problem are you trying to solve or what connection are you trying to improve?
This Google Glass example is not about the technology, it’s about how we, as a lean community, can and should affect the vision and application Factory 4.0. The recent PWC 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey is validation and maybe vindication of many of my digital rants. I’ve chosen some nuggets but there is a wealth of information in the survey and I recommend it be read in its entirety. PWC surveyed over 2000 participants from nine major industrial sectors across 26 countries.
One of the many major findings was that the next 2-3 years will be critical for companies looking to catch up.
- The biggest challenges center around internal issues like culture, organization, skills and leadership. “The biggest challenge of industrial leaders isn’t technology, it’s the people”.
- “Digital technologies are rapidly becoming a commodity, success largely depends on an organization’s Digital IQ”.
- “Change management will be critical”
Many of the key findings of the survey are not a surprise. “Focus on people and culture to drive transformation” Some are a surprise; “First movers are already making the shift and using data analytics to help drive decision-making”. Interestingly, 83% of the responders expect data to have a significant impact on their decision-making and will be critical in the future, yet only about half are using data to drive decisions. Rapid and effective decision-making will always require judgment but, in most cases, it will also require data.
PWC identified a blueprint for success that included:
- “Evaluate your own digital maturity”. Thirty-eight of the responders rely on selective ad-hoc data analytic capability and another 9% have no capability at all.
- “Build direct links to decision-making”
- “Set the tone from the top with clear leadership, commitment and vision”
Granted, the comments I chose serve to confirm my bias. The lean community is critical, even necessary, for the successful implementation of Factory 4.0 and the digital transformation.
Carlino Partners in association with Maex Partners has developed a comprehensive Factory 4.0 Maturity Assessment to help organizations navigate the future.