Industry 4.0 is transforming the manufacturing industry, with some companies emerging as leaders in implementing digital transformations across their networks. These companies have seen significant benefits from data and analytics, AI, and machine learning. However, the majority of companies are still struggling to achieve a satisfactory return on investment and are stuck in pilot programs.
What are the benefits of digital transformation in manufacturing?
Scaling digital transformations across networks of factories is challenging, but the benefits of successful implementations are significant. These benefits include increasing production capacity, reducing material losses, improving customer service and delivery lead times, achieving higher employee satisfaction, and reducing environmental impact. Implementing technology in the right way can also lead to more informed decision-making, upskilling opportunities, and better talent retention and workplace safety.
Manufacturers today have access to hundreds of potential solutions and tech applications that can improve their ways of working. Successfully implemented solutions can deliver significant returns, but a strategic and value-driven approach is necessary to avoid common pitfalls associated with digital transformations.
Customers also benefit from reduced manufacturing lead times, better customer service, and complexity management, and reduced environmental impact through lower emissions, waste reduction, and more efficient use of energy, water, and raw materials.
Why is digital transformation hard?
By implementing the right applications of technology, manufacturers can enable more informed decision-making, create opportunities for upskilling and cross-functional collaboration, improve talent retention, and enhance workplace safety and employee satisfaction. Customers also benefit from reduced manufacturing lead times, improved launch management, better customer service, and complexity management, as well as reduced environmental impact through lower emissions, waste reduction, and more efficient use of energy, water, and raw materials.
However, achieving these improvements across a network of individual manufacturing sites is challenging. Manufacturers often struggle to scale up successful pilot programs due to differences in site leadership, IT infrastructure, and workplace culture. There are five common reasons for this: siloed implementation, failure to adapt, analysis paralysis, technology-driven rather than value-driven approaches, and letting perfection defeat good.
How to overcome challenges in digital transformation
To overcome these challenges, leading companies have adopted many tactics, including developing a digital-manufacturing road map, identifying valuable use cases, and securing leadership buy-in.
Designing a digital-manufacturing road map involves developing a prioritized rollout plan with a clear scaling strategy and articulating the value to capture over time. Companies must also integrate data enablement and IT/OT architecture, as well as resourcing requirements, capabilities, and change management.
Syndicating the vision and securing leadership buy-in is also crucial. This means circulating the business case and requirements with key stakeholders and aiming for a clear mandate from top leadership with close engagement from site leaders.
While achieving digital transformation across a network of individual manufacturing sites can be challenging, taking the time to develop a robust strategy and deployment plan can accelerate Industry 4.0 transformations and chart a clear journey forward for the next few years.