Industry 4.0 brings with it the exciting opportunity to transform the way your business operates, and the products or services your business provides.
However, before embarking on your own Industry 4.0 journey, it’s important to first make sure your business is prepared for change. That means having the right systems in place that allow you to leverage new technology - effectively, efficiently and safely - and having the right support around you to ensure you get it right for your business today and for the future.
Here are our recommended steps to set the foundation for embracing the potential of Industry 4.0 in your business:
Get clear on your objectives
Before you do anything, identify the ways digitisation could potentially impact on how you do business. You might not have a clear path to achieving these just yet, but recognising where opportunities exist for greater efficiency or productivity is the best place to start. Keeping these objectives at the core of any decision making from this point onwards also ensures you are future-proofing your business for prospective transformation.
Your digital transformation will only be as effective as your ability to collect, analyse, and understand data. Look deep into information and trends that are provided to you through the data you collect across your business, and begin to build direct links between this data, and the decisions your business makes. Data has the potential to help guide the creation, and shape of, new ways of working, new service offerings or new products that better serve your customers or your workforce, and therefore what new technology your business may need.
Data connectivity is critical
Data collection should also play a part in your considerations when it comes to connecting technology across your business. How would your business benefit from the transfer and transparency of data across your operations?
Taking full advantage of the opportunities of Industry 4.0 means considering your processes as a whole, rather than as siloed systems or disparate departments. For example, for manufacturers, linking systems and machinery through modular devices results in a Smart Factory, whereby data is communicated along the production process, right from the shop floor to the management system.
For most businesses, what’s currently missing is the ability to gather and analyse this data, however digital transformation doesn’t have to be at the cost of your legacy systems. Often, they provide a good foundation from which to begin your Industry 4.0 journey. An assimilation of both old and new can be successful - there’s more on that here.
Not surprisingly, protection of data and intellectual property needs to be a top consideration for any business implementing or updating technology. This isn’t just a consideration for your IT team or vendor; it also involves ensuring a company-wide shift towards a security-conscious culture. Articulating best practice and ensuring your workforce has the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure data or systems are not compromised is critical. Security training and processes such as two-factor authentication are good places to start.
For your platforms, a high level of end-to-end encryption is necessary to prevent vulnerabilities, and any devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) should remain segregated from the main network to ensure they don’t interfere with the transmission of data. Despite some perceptions, cloud computing is highly secure and also offers better continuity of operations than on-premise servers, should an unexpected event or disaster occur.
Security is just one important factor to consider when it comes to choosing a technology partner for your Industry 4.0 journey. Make the effort to understand how any technology vendors you choose carry out security updates and fix vulnerabilities before committing.
Partnering for success
Getting your head around the impact of Industry 4.0 for your business isn’t something you have to (or should) do alone. Understanding your business, your customers, and what you want to achieve takes research and analysis that may be beyond the scope of in-house capabilities. No matter where your business is currently sitting in its journey, a technology partner who can help you see the potential of what’s possible will be your best asset.
Digging deep into user experience, using this insight to shape innovation, and ensuring effective implementation of recommended technology requires a high level of specialist knowledge and expertise. Your partnership should be just that - a partnership. It’s about collaboration and an Industry 4.0 journey is never one-size-fits-all. The right choice in technology partner will also have the capability to support you long term, not just in a technical sense but also with continued transformation as your business evolves.
Curious about where Industry 4.0 could take your business? We’ve got more on how automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning could give your business a distinct advantage in a digital world. Check out our blog here.