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Reflections: Factory 4.0

What’s Good?

Factory 4.0, or if you wish the digital transformation, is coming and coming fast and it’s powerful. It’s the most talked-about global industrial initiative in 20 years. It’s about a completely connecting a network of product, machines, people, systems and information across the entire business ecosystem extending their horizons beyond the company boundaries.

I have preached that connectivity is king, and Factory 4.0 is connectivity on steroids. Normal long and resource consuming decision cycles become quick, efficient and effective decision making. Stories and opinions will be overwhelmed with information and data. Employees will be surfacing and solving their own problems and solutions will be readily accessible. Resources are freed and energized for innovation and strategic execution.

The 4th industrial revolution will be a culture of new; an ecosystem for open contribution. The disruption and solutions will be exponential.

robot hand meets human hand

What’s Bad?

There is no digital transformation, it’s a connectivity transformation.

Digital is 30 years old. Success for Factory 4.0 will be separating digital tools from a digital approach. Digitals tools are a commodity that every business already has or can purchase. The competitive advantage is the digital approach creating process optimization and value-added connectivity.

I have experienced companies that have approached the Factory 4.0 transformation in the same manner as many failed lean transformations; it was about tools and not the transformation.

Factory 4.0 is about the people and not the technology. The challenge is developing the knowledge worker and their digital IQ. “Big data” is not necessarily better. The ability to interpret the data, recognizing patterns and relationships, is the difference. Warren Buffet has no more data than his counterparts. He just is better at interrupting the data.

Digital is not the best solution for every problem and should never be a replacement for thinking or judgment.

robot holding light source

What I Think?

Many companies are jumping on the digital bandwagon and they are not prepared. Factory 4.0 is not about bolting on digital tools. It’s about digital readiness.

Organizations will change; giving up control and becoming more siloed. They will have to concentrate as much on the workforce as much as on the technology. No use investing in technology if the workforce isn’t prepared to use it effectively. Overloading employees with more information and data will just create fatigue and absorb valuable resources. There needs to be a culture of the right information, at the right place provided to the right people at the right time.

I call this “resource power.” We as a lean community are the best positioned to assess and help companies become ready. Those who prepare the best and execute the fastest outside their four walls will survive.

Lean is the Factory 4.0 enabler. We in the lean community are the trusted advisors.

robot appearing to think