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Industry 4.0: Businesses Often Overlooked Areas

Brief

           Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is the current trend where businesses look to interconnect the physical and cyber world. At the moment, this trend involves the automation of processes, digitization, value chain integration & data analytics at levels never seen before. Some of the examples of such implementation are the introduction of Robotics Process Automation (RPA), Agility methodologies, and the use of data visualization and analytics to drive decision making. Other key areas that are often talked about in conferences are: internet of things, cloud computing, big data and machine learning.

           Whether the business hires professionals to implement the solutions, build an in-house team, or decide to go with a hybrid solution, the degree of complexity involved and its challenges can be daunting and that leads business managers to wonder whether they are in the right direction. This article will look at some of the areas that are often overlooked and steps that can be taken to better manage the movement into Industry 4.0.

What are Businesses Often Overlooking?

1. Expectation Management

              Talk to a procurement specialist or a business leader and they will tell you that they are flooded with offers from suppliers and internal stakeholders looking to sell the next best idea that will help their business reach a new degree of success. These solutions are often oversold and underperform the hype it creates due to a variety of reasons. 

              To combat this trend, managers, suppliers & in-house teams need to take steps to better manage expectations of what the technology can/will do for their business. Managers should look to award suppliers and teams that show a higher degree of transparency, honesty and regular communication. By doing so, stakeholders will have an understanding that better aligns with reality and will limit potential risks throughout the project. Businesses also need to understand that in newer frontiers, there is a higher degree of failure that can impact the business and that sometimes it is better to fail fast and learn faster.

2. Prioritization

        Project prioritization is key to organizational success, helping to assess how to best spend one’s limited resource to achieve strategic success. Businesses are often conflicted with regards to what projects to prioritize and why. A lack of or limited emphasis in prioritization can have a material impact on the business ability to fully benefit from the fourth revolution. Here are a few areas that leaders should consider:

  • What is the degree of complexity needed to accomplish the implementation?
  • How will clients and other stakeholders be impacted by disruptions at different parts of the implementation?
  • What are some smaller projects that can be done to test the efficacy of the solution? Can they be replicated at scale? Are the key outcomes expected to be vastly different depending on scale & conditions?

3. Experimentation & Learning – The MVP

       A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a barebones solution that still functions and allows early clients to experience the product and provide feedback for the team to incrementally add new features to it. Whenever possible, businesses should strive to create Minimum Viable Products throughout their project releases and segments to identify potential glitches and improvements before the final release.

       Making use of agile methodologies can help teams have a structure to ensure MVPs are delivered iteratively and that stakeholders are getting the chance to review the results often. In most cases, it is better for leadership not to sign-off on large scale exercises without having prior experience in a smaller scale scenario based on an MVP. When contracting external consultants, try to award contracts based on shorter deliverables even if the project is expected to last years.

4. The Human Side

        The Industry 4.0 revolution is disrupting the very base of human life. That includes work, purchase patterns, goods & services provided and many others. These disruptions are also having unintended consequences that are sometimes difficult for businesses to pinpoint and workaround. Leaders are having to consider a variety of human factors that are impacted by the fourth industrial revolution. Below are a few areas that business leaders should be considering throughout its implementations:

  • How will the employees be impacted by this change? Do we have a transition plan and is it adequate to our culture?
  • Are the employees aware of the changes due to this new technology and has it impacted their morale and output?
    • If so, have we taken steps to ameliorate the matter? What are the steps our business is taking to prepare them for the next step and help them augment the business alongside the newer technology?
  • Are our clients or internal users ready to make use of the new technology implemented?
  • Do we have the right culture to tackle the new challenges created by Industry 4.0?
  • Do we have the right teams to resolve these new challenges?

5. Security

        Businesses that look to implement Industry 4.0 transformations often neglect the security aspect of their solutions and the costs associated with it. This is often showcased by a lack of security professional’s feedback throughout the program/ project lifecycle. When security is an afterthought, a built-in solution is often brushed aside and layered protection becomes the next best case. This can lead to a less efficient and sometimes costlier security solution and can have a direct impact on the system’s functionality.

        In cases where the system becomes less efficient due to the layered security solution, users may look for workarounds that can potentially increase the odds of security breaches. A security breach can lead to theft, reputational damage, litigation, financial losses and many others. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to set-up security protocols to the implementations of Industry 4.0 transformations.

Conclusion

        The areas covered in this article are just a glimpse of the issues leaders are facing with the advances of the fourth industrial revolution. There are concerns over scalability, data analytics, security and many more. For example, business tenure at the S&P 500 market index is expected to shrink from 24 years on average in 2016 to 12 years by 2027 according to Innosight. Business reactions to changes caused by industry 4.0 can be paramount to their short to long-term success and their ability to rebound from failures even more so. 

        Has your business taken the steps necessary to fully benefit from Industry 4.0? Do you understand how the solution works and its implications? Are you able to rebound from failures at a fast pace? If the answer is no, it is probably better to get back to the drawing board and/or hire a team to help you understand it.

For those interested in exploring the Industry 4.0, please refer to RMIT.edu article.

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