Myth-Busting Manufacturing’s Digital Lag
According to the experts, everyone should be on the Industry 4.0 bandwagon by now. The warning: If you’re clinging to old ways of operating and delivering value, you’re already losing.
This is misleading. While Industry 4.0 is coming hard and fast, manufacturers who haven’t yet figured out how to apply Industry 4.0 across their companies aren’t “behind,” and they’re far from alone. Those outside the sector don’t fully comprehend the complexity of the challenge of going digital for manufacturers. In fact, up until recently information technology and manufacturing operating technology operated in isolation, with their own protocols, hardware and language preferences. There’s still a notable difference in how manufacturers approach these areas. If a glitch appears in a computer operating system, you reboot the software or the computer. If a glitch appears in an operating system, because of the numerous dependencies in the OT environment the entire plant can go down.
Bottom line: the caution among manufacturers in going digital isn’t about a lack of internal strategic alignment and short-term focus. The world of manufacturing is complex. There are countless pieces to this puzzle, and the technology piece is likely not the hardest to solve. While manufacturing firms differ in size, processes, and customers, they all share increasingly complex supply chains, using production assets for decades prior to replacement, and the very real need to avoid production downtime at all costs. This helps explain the major challenges faced by manufacturers wishing to create and invest in smart factories.
For more on this topic, check out my IndustryWeek column.