How to implement an Industry 4.0 strategy

The term Industry 4.0 involves adopting new technologies and developing new forms of intelligence that stimulate competencies. Businesses can follow seven key recommendations to implement an Industry 4.0 strategy and improve their chances of thriving in this digital scenario.

This article is based on knowledge insights by Carles Roig

Over the last few decades, industrial growth has declined throughout the Western world, in part due to a severe decapitalisation process and the relocation of production to low-cost countries. In this challenging scenario, there is growing awareness of the need to reindustrialise the West.

"The complexity of the environment and the opportunities globalisation offers demand the development of new attributes on which to build the industrial future," says Esade Associate Professor Carles Roig.

What attributes should this Industry 4.0 have? According to Roig, businesses that want to thrive in this environment should develop a series of new attributes that target:

  1. Speed and flexibility of response.
  2. New formulas for collaboration and relations.
  3. Greater and better use of databases and sources of information.
  4. Implementation and good use of new manufacturing technologies.
Industry 4.0 technology
People working in an assembly line (Photo: Andrea S./Twenty20)

Industry 4.0 goals

The term Industry 4.0, coined in 2011, is frequently associated with the development and adoption of new technologies that are advancing at dizzying speed. Big data, the Internet of Things and additive technologies are the three key elements underpinning the concept of Industry 4.0.

Big data. The exponential increase in data generation and the development of powerful software are extending new forms of knowledge at the service of decision-making.
Internet of Things. New ways of connecting information and improving traceability and real-time data transmission are stimulating interaction between humans and technological devices.
Additive technologies. Disruptive technologies based on robotics and 3D production are opening to the large-scale personalisation of products and lower labour costs at any location.

"The main goals of this new digital industry lie in three core aspects: improving operational efficiency, optimising design and governance of the value chain and developing new business models," explains Roig.

New forms of intelligence and competencies

Industry 4.0 involves developing new forms of intelligence that stimulate competencies aimed at tackling new supply and demand challenges.

"From a demand viewpoint, this means improving the capacity to interact with customers, that is, including them and giving them a participatory role in production processes in order to personalise the range of products and services offered, and also to develop business models based on customers' needs," says Roig.

Industry 4.0 involves developing new forms of intelligence

From a supply point of view, the increased complexity of the supply chain must be compensated by developing business ecosystems equipped with the best instruments for connectivity and information transmission, but in particular by new criteria for recruitment, management and collaboration between their members.

"A swift and personalised response is prioritised over low unit costs, while the capacity to generate dynamic relationships is prioritised over the establishment of static relationships based on long-term contracts."

7 key recommendations on implementing an Industry 4.0 strategy

The research findings outline seven key recommendations that businesses can follow to implement an Industry 4.0 strategy and improve their chances of thriving in this new digital scenario.

  1. Plan the scope of your business and align your goals with the company's general strategy. Clearly define what your goals are and prioritise your actions based on: improving your operations effectiveness, optimising your value chain and evaluating the possibility of creating new business models.
  2. Facilitate a work environment that promotes an open mentality oriented towards learning, change and experimentation.
  3. Define the competencies that need to be developed, both internally and with external providers.
  4. Recruit and manage talent, prioritising multidisciplinary teams and the capacity to turn data analysis into a strong asset.
  5. Select a team of providers with tested technologies to start growing the optimal network of partners.
  6. Adopt an ecosystem perspective and develop network management abilities.
  7. Start with pilot projects, validate results and systematise the learning mechanisms.
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