As Stephen Covey said in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, you want to begin with the end in mind. We’ll cover the Art of the Possible and how to use the business case to drive your Industry 4.0 plan

The first step is to understand what is possible. There are many different technologies that fall under Industry 4.0. We have a lot of coverage of those technologies elsewhere on the site, but we'll cover a few of them now. “Big Data” is a set of technologies that allow us to capture far more information from the shop floor than ever before. This data then drives many additional capabilities for the business. For example, one of our customers in the firearms industry has to track a serial number on every firearm by law. We connected their warranty database to information we were capturing from the shop floor to correlate the units that ended up in warranty with a variety of shop floor conditions to see what drivers of warranty could be eliminated in the plants. 

Having those massive data stores available also drives machine learning and artificial intelligence applications. These applications can be used for things like predictive maintenance, predictive quality and much more.

Although...Should the focus be on the available technologies? Or should the real focus be on driving improvements to the overall business goals?

There are many potential sources of value in an Industry 4.0 implementation. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved Throughput
  • Reduced Total Cost of Quality
  • Compressed Time to Market
  • Reduced Costs
  • Reduced Inventory
  • Capturing New Revenue Streams

 At Visual Decisions, we have a very effective methodology for identifying the potential value from an Industry 4.0 initiative. Using this value discovery process to define the initiative also has the benefit of identifying the required enabling technologies and their relative importance.

Here is a quick outline of the process:

  • We start with a “Top Down” benefits case
    1. This begins by looking at the top priorities for operations within the business
    2. Those top priorities could be to increase production, reduce costs, improve quality, etc.
    3. For each of those priorities, we start to map out the impediments to current performance
    4. These are the “proximate” causes or sometimes the symptoms of what is going wrong
    5. Then we continue to drill down until we get to the root causes – something that we can take action on 
  • Once we believe that we’ve gotten to the root causes, we can start to put a plan in place to address those problems
  • We call this a “Bottoms-Up” benefits case
    1. With our list of root causes in hand, we start to look at what changes in culture, process or technology can address those issues
    2. This is where understanding “The Art of the Possible” comes into play
    3. We identify one or more enablers for every root cause we can address
    4. This leads to a set of “capabilities” the business can put in place that encompass a detailed plan not just for the technology, but how the processes will be adapted to take advantage of those enablers
    5. From all this groundwork, we can generate a reasonably accurate estimate for how much of an impact we can have on the top level issue
  • When we have completed this for all of the primary business goals, we can look at the enablers and identify how much each of those enablers can be leveraged across the various goals
  • That gets us our initial prioritization for the rollout

Depending on the scope of the initiative, this process can take be completed in as little as two days or take as long as two weeks.