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How to Succeed at Industry 4.0

0 minutes read · 15th March 2024

Author: Rob Crawford, Associate Partner, Chartwell

How to Succeed at Industry 4.0

In the era of Industry 4.0, the amalgamation of digital technologies, the internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) promises unprecedented opportunities for manufacturers. However, despite the potential benefits, many manufacturers find themselves struggling to harness the power of Industry 4.0. In this article, we’ll discuss how manufacturing leaders can overcome Industry 4.0’s biggest barriers.

The Data Dilemma

Manufacturers today have a wealth of data. From production lines and supply chains to customer interactions, every aspect of the manufacturing process generates information, collectively summing to a huge total. The challenge is twofold: 

  • Making sense of this data and transforming it into actionable insights 
  • Making sure that actionable insights turn into action 

Doing this well requires time and effort both during the setup phase, when new tools, processes and systems are implemented, and on an ongoing basis – after all, performance can only improve if people at the frontline of operations consistently make different and better decisions compared to what they would have done without these new systems.    Even manufacturers who effectively use data to make decisions struggle to execute this to a high level, and there are three common reasons.

3 Reasons Why Manufacturers Struggle

Gaps in Data Utilization Expertise

Team members at manufacturing organizations are often very capable at analyzing data. However, being able to analyze data and being able to build tools to automatically process data and convert it into a clear, visual output that highlights the critical points are very different skills. Bringing that deep analytical skillset together with a clear vision for what is the one picture everyone should be reviewing on a daily basis is an unusual combination.  

Time Constraints 

The fast-paced nature of manufacturing means that urgent “fire-fighting” activities can easily take priority over longer-termbigger-picture thinking. Many teams struggle to prioritize the time for important but non-urgent issues (e.g. root cause problem solving or future risk mitigation strategies) when confronted with problems in the here-and-now.

Data Overload 

The abundance of data can be a double-edged sword. Having too many ways of parsing the data or reviewing performance can muddy the waters and create indecision. Ensuring that there is a clear, shared understanding of why the team should review this instead of that requires clarity of purpose, and the confidence and authority to push back against less effective alternatives – or even alternatives that are equally good but not additiveBoth of these can be hard to come by in a hierarchical organization, swamped with options and short on time. 

Back to Basics: The Key to Unlocking Industry 4.0 Potential

To overcome the challenges associated with Industry 4.0 implementation, manufacturers must return to the basics. The guiding principles are as follows:  Define Clear Objectives  Before diving into data collection, manufacturers should define clear objectives. What are the specific goals they aim to achieve?   Whether it’s improving operational efficiency, reducing costs, or enhancing product quality, a well-defined purpose ensures that data collection aligns with strategic objectives.   Identify Relevant Data   Not all data is created equal. Manufacturers must identify the types of data crucial to achieving their goals. By focusing on only the most relevant information, companies can streamline their data collection efforts, making it more manageable and actionable. Make It Easy to Do the Right Thing  People are busy. People in manufacturing are extra busy. If you want your team to invest time into a process that will yield long-term benefit but doesn’t sort the problem that has currently stopped the line, you need to make sure that doing the right thing is easy: 

  • Ensure complex data is reduced to simple pictures.
  • Make sure the meeting is not scheduled at a bad time for production team members to attend.
  • Keep meetings to 15 minutes or less.

While this may seem basic, it’s critical to overall success. Invest in Training, Tools and Hearts & Minds  Bridging the skills gap is essential. Investing in training programs for existing staff or hiring professionals with expertise in data analytics can empower manufacturers to make better use of their data. Additionally, implementing user-friendly analytics tools can simplify the process of extracting meaningful insights. That being said, if the frontline production team who both feed in data and take action based on its output don’t want to do itchanges will be very difficult to sustain. To be successful, manufacturers need the frontline team’s buy-in – which means investing real time and effort in understanding their concerns, addressing problems, improving your systems to match their workflows and making the transition to new systems as collaborative and positive as it can be.


Industry 4.0 holds tremendous promise for manufacturers, but the path to success requires a strategic and informed approach to data utilization and a people-centered strategy. By going back to basics, defining clear objectives, identifying relevant data, and investing in the necessary skills, tools and motivation, manufacturers can position themselves to unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0. It’s time to turn data from a challenge into a strategic asset, paving the way for a more efficient, agile, and competitive future in the manufacturing landscape.