Almost any conversation you have these days involving manufacturing technology will either begin or end with discussion about Industry 4.0 (Manufacturing 4.0, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet of Things, cloud computing, smart factories). In my analysis, so much of the talk is just talk. People realize that they need to embrace Industry 4.0, in many cases, because others say so, and in some cases because they know that it is the future of manufacturing, that the future is here, and that many are already getting left behind.
The questions on my mind are where companies may be on the continuum that moves them to full implementation of Industry 4.0 technology and what factors must be addressed? I recently received answers in the form of a white paper summarizing research that Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Industrial Group (frost.com) conducted in collaboration with NTT Data Services, Plano, TX.
The publication, “Manufacturing 4.0: A Playbook for Navigating the Journey to IT Modernization & Transformation,” outlines six critical issues in today’s manufacturing ecosystems that must be addressed if an enterprise is going to embrace and benefit from Industry 4.0. (The white paper refers to it as Manufacturing 4.0. It would really help if everyone would just settle on one name.) Of those six issues, the research data from four of them paint a rather strong picture about the current status of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.
The Factories of the Future issue looks at end-to-end digitalization of manufacturing processes, i.e., IP-enabled factories. The research question was “How extensively has your company IP-enabled and networked its plant-floor equipment today and what do you expect the extent will be in five years’ time? Responses were not a surprise: 32% answered “Partially” for today and 46% said they are just getting started. Only 9% answered “Extensively” for today. The five-years-from-now answer was a mixed bag: 34% answered “Partially” and 55% answered “Extensively.”
The issue of Transformative Technologies asks for the most important business factor driving a company’s move toward Manufacturing 4.0. The leading factor, by a wide margin, was Operational Efficiency at 32%. The next closest factor, at only 17%, was “Increased competition due to globalization,” followed by “Customer expectations” at 16%.
The Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership issue is also revealing. The question: What do you think are the three most significant challenges to implementing Manufacturing 4.0 in your company? “Understanding the benefits/challenges” led the way at 37%, followed by “Corporate culture” at 29% and “Lack of buy-in from the C-suite” at 26%. Tied at 25% were “Finding skilled people,” “Change management,” “Developing a Manufacturing 4.0 strategy,” and “Identifying opportunities and ROI.”
That Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership issue tells me what I’ve suspected: Most people are at the beginner end of the spectrum and need substantial education and help. But there’s also a question of how convinced enterprises are that Industry 4.0 really is the future. In the Changing Workforce Dynamics issue, 42% say that Manufacturing 4.0 is “A game changer, truly a new era.” But 50% feel that it’s “Significant, but not transformative.”
I’ve only hit the highlights of this research report. No matter where you are on the path to full Industry 4.0 implementation, this study is compelling. Download it here. MT