Thought Leadership

Industry 4.0 manufacturing and your future business

By alastairorchard

Creating networks that can adapt and respond to change will be a critical part of manufacturers’ processes if they want to retain success in Industry 4.0.

As we move into this new era of Industry 4.0 manufacturing, manufacturers must also be able to incorporate the Internet of Things throughout its processes. As you move into the new Industrial Revolution, you must have the capabilities and tools to help you learn from your products while they’re in the field, and you need to ensure you can include your customers’ voices and trends so you can eventually predict shifts in the market.

In this series, we’ve discussed some of the capabilities pioneering manufacturers will need to have to retain their competitive edge in Industry 4.0 manufacturing. We now turn to how effective action and agility should be included in these capabilities.

Effective action. We’ve covered how innovative companies will need technology that can harness Big Data to deliver a deep understanding of how to improve products, operate more efficiently and drive innovation. These are all important when working with Industry 4.0 manufacturing.

Insight allows for better decision making. But decisions alone do not produce results.

Your company must take swift, coordinated and confident action. The vision of Industry 4.0 is that routine activity can occur by using the Industrial Internet of Things for materials, machines and products with little human interaction. In addition, the “digital thread” of information from point to point gives us information about end-product quality.

However, the unplanned and unexpected will require innovative responses and change that create a competitive advantage. The required timeliness of action in Industry 4.0 is a key benchmark.

Can you leverage your analytics to take action before failures occur?

Can you understand a thread of activities that lead to a sub-optimal outcome?

Can you predict failures before injury or damage?

Can you ultimately move from “recall” to “pre-call?”

You must be able to use the intelligence from your networks to make the best decision you can at the earliest possible moment. But you must go beyond using the information to choose the best action: you must use your intelligent network to monitor and verify how effective that action is.

It’s a responsive feedback loop across many nodes on the network. Is the action producing the desired correction or prevention? What evidence do you have that the action you took will solve the problem in its entirety? Are there additional actions that need to follow?

The manufacturers that can leverage their new intelligent networks to take the swiftest, most appropriate actions, and to verify effectiveness, will protect and build their brand in Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 Effective Action.pngIn Industry 4.0 manufacturing, you must go beyond using information to choose the best course of action: you must use your intelligent network to monitor and verify how effective your actions are.

Agility. The final key capability innovative companies will require in this era of Industry 4.0 manufacturing is agility.

Agility anchors every other capability we’ve discussed. Agility means having the ability to quickly respond to rapid change. No matter what the configuration of the global or local enterprise looks like, you will compete with companies that have different configurations.

Many companies now strive to design, build and deliver products anywhere to enable faster local response with standardized and effective processes. Some companies are moving to local production. Others are closing smaller plants to create highly flexible mega-plants that can build a wider array of products with economies of scale.

In this complex global undertaking, companies must control the flow of products and information. Insight must be just as available in one place as it is in another, no matter where the physical nodes of the intelligent network reside.

Effective action requires not only analytics, but the delivery of information to plant-wide and enterprise-level decision makers, an infrastructure for rapid collaboration and the communication of the action to elicit an immediate network-wide response.

The communication is a networked feedback loop. Information is delivered to the required decision-makers to collaborate on the decision, and the resulting action is expedited back to the entire intelligent network where its effectiveness is confirmed. The agile manufacturer can absorb the action and rapidly reconfigure for the required action.

Operational agility goes hand-in-hand with innovation delivery. Both must occur to achieve market leadership. The ability for an enterprise to make better decisions more rapidly, and control the rapid response of its operations more swiftly than the competition will be a critical capability in Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 Agility.pngAgility should be compatible with innovation delivery, and you need both to achieve market leadership.

This concludes our look at the key capabilities companies will need to retain innovation in Industry 4.0 manufacturing. In our next part, we discuss the value chain of Industry 4.0 and why your old MES will die in Industry 4.0.

About the author
With more than 20 years of experience, first as a manufacturer and then with Siemens, Alastair Orchard has focused on the gains in operational efficiency that Advanced Automation, MES and MOM delivery. He now focuses on Industry 4.0 and the consumerization of manufacturing. Alastair currently leads a global team running the Digital Enterprise Project to help customers take advantage of the synergies possible between product ideation, realization and utilization through the digital transformation of their business processes. Alastair holds an engineering degree in chemical engineering from the Loughborough University of Technology in the U.K. and lives in Genoa, Italy with his wife and four children.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at