The FAST track to Industry 4.0: getting started

May 11, 2022
  • operations
  • IT
  • discrete manufacturing
  • data

Until recently, many companies were still on the fence about Industry 4.0. Then, they were faced with disrupted production and supply chains, a global pandemic, and geopolitical instability. Now, most would consider a more data-driven, resilient and flexible manufacturing process a major advantage. One challenge remains, however: what’s the best way to get started?

A lot has been said about Industry 4.0 – guilty as charged – yet for many companies, all that babble has only added to the confusion. The fact that new startups, vendors and solutions seem to pop up almost daily doesn’t help either. “What I’m hearing a lot from customers is that they’ve seen multiple interesting solutions and use cases,” says Alexander Naessens, expert Industry 4.0 at delaware. “What’s missing, however, is a reliable decision framework that allows them to select, prioritize and connect them in a way that aligns with their long-term strategy.”

FAST Industry 4.0

While every company has its own unique context and requirements when it comes to Industry 4.0, they also have a lot of challenges in common. Alexander: “Over the course of the past few years, we’ve collected all the knowledge and experience across numerous projects in one place. The result of that exercise is FAST Industry 4.0: a framework that serves as a starting point and accelerator for companies to think more clearly about Industry 4.0, make informed decisions, and prioritize next steps.” 

Some of the key takeaways include:

  • While individual companies approach Industry 4.0 differently, there are a lot of similarities on industry level. For example, food manufacturers will face many of the same challenges, and thus can learn a lot from each other. Which is why there are multiple industry-specific versions of the FAST Industry 4.0 framework.
  • How you approach Industry 4.0 and what your priorities are, depends first and foremost on the larger business strategy. If your main goal is to increase operational excellence, investing in smart sensors for production machines and collecting large amounts of data makes a lot of sense. But when your aim is to provide an effortless customer experience, you’re probably better off investing in supply chain transparency and a customer portal. 

The importance of strategy drives home a key misunderstanding of Industry 4.0 as a purely technological transformation. “You need to have a clear goal and business strategy in mind,” says Alexander. “Will you focus on operational excellence, sustainability, customer experience, or employee experience? The direction you’re taking will determine which Industry 4.0 projects make sense for you and, perhaps even more importantly, which don’t.”

your template & guide towards Industry 4.0 success

Industry 4.0 and strategy: four perspectives

  1. Operational excellence: use data-driven technologies to increase product quality and consistency, reduce scrap, and boost production efficiency. 
  2. Human central: make production environments safer and more attractive for employees, e.g. by eliminating repetitive or non-ergonomic tasks, and win in the war for talent. 
  3. Sustainability: reduce the consumption of energy and water, cut CO2 emissions and optimize the use of natural resources.
  4. Business model innovation: re-invent your entire business model by exploring new opportunities like personalization and servitization.

Think, plan, act

The FAST Industry 4.0 framework consists of three main building blocks. “The first one is a vision for the future of each industry, including trends, challenges, opportunities and risks. Here, we’ll also take a look at industry-specific sub-aspects of Industry 4.0, like manufacturing 4.0 and maintenance 4.0. 

The second part provides the Industry 4.0 roadmap: a step-by-step implementation plan that enlists the actions needed to achieve that vision. These initiatives are clustered in waves and prioritized in terms of feasibility, ‘value vs required investment’, and business strategy.

Last but not least, part 3 outlines what is needed – in the short and long term – to  realize the roadmap, more specifically the Industry 4.0 architecture with all the technological building blocks. In this last part of the framework, we also share our best practices for ensuring a successful execution: how to assemble a team, manage your ever-changing transformation plan on a day-to-day basis, and set up an Industry 4.0 coalition that includes internal and external stakeholders.

establish a strong Industry 4.0 roadmap for your business

Customization to meet specific needs

“About 85% of the roadmap is standard, i.e. applicable to every organization,” Alexander adds. “The remaining 15% will need some customization to meet the specific needs of the organization. They can choose to do that themselves or we can help them.”

Start button

Of course, more work is needed to successfully transform into a factory of the future. However, Alexander believes that the FAST Industry 4.0 roadmap solves many of the issues companies experience right from the start. “As in almost any domain, complexity is rising, and many organizations don’t have the knowledge or expertise to see the forest from the trees. This results in either disconnected experiments that have no real value, or worse: in deferring further investments. Now, however, there is a clear place from which to start.”

Jolyce Demely, general director of Agoria Vlaanderen, the Belgian federation for the technology industry, adds: “Sustainability, disrupted supply chains, scarcity of people and resources, cyber threats… It’s true that today’s manufacturers have a lot of things to worry about. However, it’s important to realize that Industry 4.0 provides a solution to many of these challenges. The most important thing is to get everyone aligned and take up ownership.”

Looking for the start button of your Industry 4.0 transformation? Get in touch or learn more about our FAST Industry 4.0 framework.

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