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The challenges of adopting Industry 4.0
Do you have the vision?

Graham Upton
7 Oct 2022

In the second of our Intelligent Industry: Journey to The Manufacturer events blog series, Graham Upton explores the challenges organisations face when adopting Industry 4.0.

The appetite for Industry 4.0, and in particular digital transformation, shows no sign of abating and is indeed accelerating across multiple industries, especially manufacturing. Interestingly, the pace of adoption continues to be constrained by several factors.

The vision

Funding and successful proof of concepts are vast, but they then fail to progress into full-blown production for several reasons. Firstly, the overall strategy and roadmap have either not been created or exclude other interdependencies which are critical to their success. The vision for this technology has not been properly communicated inside the business, to not just the immediate stakeholders and the all-important end users, but invariably the CIO and CFO. They will want to know what the impact is going to be in terms of deployment, what other systems may be impacted, scalability, security protocols and so on.

ROI considerations

Next, the return on investment needs to be considered and this is often overlooked until the PoC has finished, or is hard to define, therefore it gets stopped at this point and momentum is lost, which is the inevitable pilot purgatory. New technologies such as 5G enable thousands of IoT sensors to send their data securely and quickly due to the low latency so has a lot of promise, however the uptake appears to be relatively slow for industry to adopt. There is a large initial capital outlay so unless the business case is robust the CFO will often defer the decision.

Everybody knows that digitalisation is needed to stay ahead of the competition and remain competitive but that alone doesn’t make a good business case. There are many benefits that are seen as intangibles such as wasted time and effort searching for data, which are hard to prove from the booking systems. The fact that many manufacturing businesses are still using paper, excel spreadsheets and legacy enterprise systems is testament that data is in different formats, must be translated and manually transferred from one machine to a data centre or one system to another. Obtaining robust information about the as-is process, amount of down-time, and schedule adherence is entirely possible but needs a lot of data mining to underpin the investment scenario and progress towards the to-be. There is a definite need to turn the intangible aspects of the business case into tangible benefits.

Fear of change – Technology take-up

The technology take-up is often the final hurdle that is not fully considered until the proof of concept is close to roll-out. Employees often see the introduction of the new technologies as a threat; they have not been properly consulted about the benefits these will bring to their working lives and fear how it will impact them. Coupled with the lack of user experience consideration, i.e., using mobile phones to view complex documents, or looking at 3D models on an inappropriate device, causes the end user to put the technology in the drawer.

To summarise, many organisations are pushing new industry 4.0 technologies but are stalling at the proof-of-concept stage. Reasons include a lack of initial strategy, plan and roadmap for digitisation. Instead, many of the initiatives are disconnected as point solutions and need integrating into the wider ecosystem. Alongside this, many encounter difficulties proving the return on investment to the senior leadership, which prohibits getting the wider business case approved. Finally, fear of change impacts technology take-up and adoption. This is a huge challenge for many organisations due to a lack of a digital culture, especially on the shop floor.

To read more blogs in the Intelligent Industry: Journey to The Manufacturer events series, see quick links below:

Still flying high after Farnborough International Airshow 2022 – Mike Dwyer reflects on the successes of the Farnborough International Airshow and looks forward to what we have planned for The Manufacturer events in Liverpool on 16th and 17th November.