Continuous improvement isn’t enough: Industry 4.0 sets a new bar

Industry 4.0 provides manufacturers with opportunities to transform digitally and uncover value within their operations. It leverages internet-connected technologies to improve existing processes and deploy continuous improvement activities by centralizing operational data to deliver real-time and actionable information.

Continuous improvement allows manufacturers to optimize what they already know about their operations, but Industry 4.0 creates a production environment that may uncover hidden opportunities within an existing process. It is also redefining the manufacturing supply chain by transforming manufacturers’ relationships with their customers, and their customers’ experience with end products. This will force manufacturers to realize that continuous improvement has a glass ceiling; that existing processes can plateau and eventually realize diminishing returns on investment that lead only to incremental changes.

These shifts are being accomplished through higher levels of integration and connectivity in the digital manufacturing landscape. Industry has moved from push to pull business models, where modular products are unified with post-delivery services. Industry 4.0 connects a product to its producer even after it has left the plant, creating a digital footprint that allows companies to capture data, analyze it and learn from it to continuously improve across their entire supply chain.

Despite the well-documented advantages of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturers have been slow to adopt these technologies, particularly among Canadian companies. Manufacturers that are slow to adopt, risk getting lost in a world where the digitization of the global industry is accelerating risk include: limited or delayed communication within the supply chain network; or, fallbacks in technology or processes when accommodating consumer needs for product differentiation.

Industry 4.0 will disrupt companies. But those manufacturers that leverage advanced technologies across their value chains will gain significant competitive advantage to meet the changing and demanding needs of their customers.

>> Read more by Simon Drexler, Plant, February 27, 2017