Industry 4.0: Connected operations that harness technology will help manufacturers conquer the next industrial revolution
Many manufacturers believe that the items they design, develop, and produce are key to their business success. And while production innovation will always be essential, manufacturers must begin to incorporate a new focus to prevent their businesses from going the way of the telex machine.
Adam Lurie is a director within the RSM Technology Advisory Services team with an emphasis on cloud, infrastructure, and strategic IT planning and assessment. He has nearly 25 years of experience providing clients with IT solutions, directional strategy, and strategic management. He is a proponent of a business objective first-IT strategy that supports business outcomes as a key element of an organization’s overall strategy.
Lurie says middle-market manufacturers can thrive long into the future by keeping their information technology infrastructure, data, connectivity, and cybersecurity at the top of their priorities list. It may seem counter-intuitive—manufacturers focus on making things, not being beacons of technology—but an ecosystem of technology designed to act in an integrated fashion will not only help manufacturers withstand the many pressures they face. It will also ensure that they capitalize on opportunities to run efficiently, reduce costs, improve quality, and more deeply understand their customers and supply chains.
In the new industrial revolution, dubbed Industry 4.0, manufacturers will succeed by taking a holistic approach to their technology. Embedded throughout manufacturers’ operations and working in unison, connected technology will future-proof their businesses. It gives manufacturers a roadmap for smart, streamlined operations.
Risks of inaction
Though financial investments are necessary to evaluate, design, and implement connected technology, the costs of not acting are steeper, Lurie says. A porous security system can lead to a very expensive—and potentially business-crippling—cyberattack. And it’s always more expensive to make technology changes in the middle of a crisis.
Without Industry 4.0, manufacturers risk getting mired in the difficulties of operating a business with an obsolete foundation. That leads to spending resources to keep outdated systems running, eating up profit. Instead, manufacturers could use those funds for investments in cloud computing and the Internet of Things to foster greater efficiency and productivity. Not holistically updating technology comes with many consequences, including being vulnerable to security breaches and operating in the dark about procurement, inventory, or logistics.
It can feel overwhelming for many mid-size companies to know where to start. They might not have internal employees with big-picture perspectives on the companies’ existing technologies or expertise to utilize tools like data analytics or machine learning. Many manufacturers have doubts about implementing the right system or disrupting business.
Partner in technology
That’s where a technology partner can help. An objective third party can help manufacturers analyze what systems and structures they have, determine what they need to evolve and grow, and develop a path for meeting those goals.
There are numerous options for embedding technologies throughout manufacturers’ operations, including opportunities in product development, production, sales planning, inventory management, logistics, and customer service. “It’s not a one-size-fits all approach,” Lurie says. “A good partner will work to understand a manufacturer’s industry, challenges, customers, and regulatory concerns. Then they will develop a unique approach for coalescing the integrated infrastructure, systems, tools, and technology the manufacturer needs to thrive, cost-effectively.”
Taking advantage of Industry 4.0 and the opportunities holistic technology provides is not a quick fix. It’s a meaningful and impactful journey that helps companies take advantage of ways to do business more effectively and efficiently, while continuing to do what they do best.