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Surviving Industry 4.0 by Digitizing Continuous Improvement

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The expansion of smart technology solutions that gather tremendous amounts of data, speak to one another, and inform future processes is changing the way businesses operate. In fact, this digital connectivity is so dramatically transforming industries that it’s earned the name Industry 4.0. But capitalizing upon this shift is the ability depends on company’s ability to couple insight from machinery and sensors with that of employees and customers to drive ongoing improvements.

By digitizing continuous improvement solutions, companies may find they gain not just data but more valuable insight on how to act upon this often-overwhelming information.

Big picture digitization

Because the shift to digital connectivity is happening so rapidly, not every company is able to keep up. In truth, many companies are outright struggling to remain competitive in today’s evolving digital landscape. PLANT magazine’s Manufacturers’ Outlook 2017 found that 76% of 526 survey respondents were not applying Industry 4.0 principles to their operations. When Accenture surveyed executives at more than 900 large companies around the world, only 13% said they were getting greater efficiency, cost savings and business growth from their digital investments due to piecemeal deployment of digital solutions.

To maximize the benefits of connected solutions, look at big picture connections. Rather than deploying technology to reduce the time of a single process, Industry 4.0 aims to harness the power of the digital revolution across an entire organization. This understanding informs a much broader deployment of technology solutions that can build new strategies for innovation. The first step is to gain input from the entire organization, such as through a digitized continuous improvement platform.

Improve, then automate

Before deploying connected solutions, it’s important to ensure the existing environment is operating at peak performance. As we all know, “garbage in, garbage out.” The same goes for automation. Automating a slow or cumbersome process is no more help than ignoring automation altogether.

The best strategy for uncovering all opportunities to streamline operations is to turn to those closest to the processes: your frontline employees. Empowering these individuals with the right tools to create ideas  and implement solutions ensures operations are running smoothly.

Success in Industry 4.0 depends upon applying collective employee intelligence and innovation for exponential impact. This is the goal of the Rever app. When an employee submits an idea, the Rever engine turns to machine learning. It applies statistical formulas to analyze similarities among previously submitted ideas at the company and presents similar solutions. By automatically recommending and sharing ideas, innovation and benefits are accelerated.

Putting customer input first

Connectivity also makes customer input more critical than ever. Industry 4.0 connects products to manufacturers even after they have left the plant. This expanded digital footprint allows companies to capture data, analyze it and learn from it. This can drive continuous improvement across the entire supply chain.

It’s also changing customer expectations. More manufacturers are making a switch to just in time production, offering higher levels of customization to meet new customer expectations. Even auto manufacturers are allowing small volume customizations based on customer input and powered by next-generation manufacturing. As customer demands shift, production can be tweaked in real time to follow suit.

This renewed focus on the customer is also key to a continuous improvement culture. Change management expert Andrei Anca points out that when every worker thinks of their peers and stakeholders as customers, they adopt shift their thinking to focusing on helping others and, as a result, seeking solutions.

The focus is on technology when it comes to Industry 4.0. However, this transformation relies first and foremost on a human connection.

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