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How a high touch, low tech approach can start you on your industry 4.0 Journey

Gethin Davies and Robin Goodfellow
Dec 5, 2023

It may seem counterintuitive but getting ready for industry 4.0 can require you to look back and embrace old fashioned pen and paper before reaching for the latest digital innovations.

The Challenge

We recently worked with a client who needed our support to help them operate within the Industry 4.0 paradigm.

The client’s drive for Industry 4.0 was to increase their OEE, thinking that digital solutions would be the answer. After working with them, we found that digital solutions alone would not drive improvements. They needed to also develop their people, processes and data.

They also had an unstable manufacturing operation, making their supply chain unpredictable. To counter this, they were stockpiling product to stabilise the supply chain, compounding the losses they were making from inefficient manufacturing processes and waste. These losses meant that they were less able to fund new innovations and continuous improvement activities. It also made the organisation fall foul of sustainability metrics (see Capgemini report).

A new way

To stabilise their manufacturing processes, we introduced our Manufacturing Excellence (ManEx) programme across two sites. ManEx is based on Agile practices and on the principle of ‘zero losses and 100% engagement’ from everyone in the manufacturing process, from machine operator to factory manager. As part of this, we introduced new, small teams of front-line managers to handle the day-to-day activities, and standards that were rapid to deploy and improve.

These leads would be responsible for developing, deploying and updating new and existing standards that would be written with the experts in using the production machines: the Operators themselves. Their engagement in writing and giving input into these standards was crucial, as it ensured compliance: you have no reason not to follow a standard if you’re the one who wrote it!

Culture Change

By far the greatest challenge faced by the client was driving a change in culture from an organisation that resisted change and addressed loss reactively, to one that embraced change and worked to pre-empt production loss.

To help them, a Proof of Concept (PoC) was deployed to demonstrate the Daily Management Systems (DMS’s), shown in Figure 1, that are part of ManEx, to the client.

Figure 1: Daily Management Systems

One example of the challenge facing us was changing the mindset of the front-line management to incorporate ‘Rapid Daily Action’, another key principle of ManEx. Getting them to understand that deploying a standard when it was 80% ready and listening to the feedback of Operators to improve it, was much more effective for their adoption than waiting to deploy standards when they were 100% ready.

The PoC started off with two machines, then three, then four. At the end of the 16-week PoC, the results of the manufacturing lines incorporated into the MBU spoke for themselves – production was up, stops were down, the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) had increased, as had the overall OEE (on one machine, OEE increased by 18%!)


Once the concept was proven, the journey of rolling it out to the rest of the factory began.

A second MBU was established, trained and the process of bringing the learning from the first MBU into the second began. Lessons learned from the second MBU also had to be transferred back to the first, so Change Management processes were implemented to manage and monitor improvements to standards.

The second phase of work delivered an 8% improvement in OEE, a 35% improvement in production target attainment, an increase in MTBF of 63% and around half of the factory operating under the ‘new way of working’.


While much was made of returning to pen and paper, there was always an eye on the future and eventual digitisation. Once the DMS are deployed and refined on analogue formats, the learning can then be incorporated into a digital format much more easily. This reduces the need for complex and expensive re-iteration or re-designing of digital systems that are deployed before they’re fully thought through.

For example, the use of automated dashboards to record daily data is already in progress, which automatically displays historic data, allowing quicker and easier analysis to understand where losses are.

With clear standards and processes in place, an engaged and capable workforce, clear data and the correct technology adopted, the road to Industry 4.0 becomes much easier.

Gethin Davies

Senior Consultant
Gethin is part of the Digital Engineering / Manufacturing teams and has previously worked in industry, building expertise in developing and deploying new technologies in the materials science, aerospace and automotive sectors. He has helped several clients deploy major change programmes and has also helped clients significantly improve their manufacturing efficiencies and sustainability.

Robin Goodfellow

Robin is a member of the Smart plant / Manufacturing team, and has extensive experience working in industry as a senior exec, building experience in manufacturing work systems, running and transforming large manufacturing operations in the FMCG sector. He has helped several clients designing and deploying major change programmes to transform their manufacturing performance.