Leadership in Industry 4.0 is about machines and people

02 February 2024 Consultancy.eu 3 min. read

Executives in the manufacturing industry are keen on ramping up their industry 4.0 maturity. New research from EFESO Management Consultants and Solvace shows that companies are aware that they must turn the dial up on digital transformation – and that people power is incredibly important for realizing their goals.

But what is industry 4.0? It refers to the integration of digital technologies like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation into manufacturing processes to create so-called ‘smart factories’, which use data-driven insights and interconnected systems to optimize production and enhance efficiency.

The research by EFESO Management Consultants and Solvace surveyed top business leaders from across the manufacturing landscape, finding that that most companies consider themselves to be at about the halfway point in their overall digital transformation roadmap.

Leadership in Industry 4.0 is about machines and people

Across the board, that means that new technologies have been implemented and they are ready to scale up, but it may not be at an advanced stage in some cases.

In interviews with senior business leaders, the researchers also uncovered several big lessons learned in their digital transformation journeys. One recurring insight is that a focus on technology cannot overshadow the role of talent. A company’s people should always be at the center of any strategy, especially as new technologies like AI can be divisive because they are sometimes seen as just a way to replace workers.

“The most powerful computers and most cutting-edge technology will be rendered useless if your people don’t know how to use it. I have a very intelligent, capable team and it is on me, as manager, to leverage this talent and develop it to meet our plant’s evolving needs,” said Ingo Hild, plant operations manager at AMS-OSRAM, a global leader in intelligent sensors and emitters.

“At the end of the day, digitalization is a puzzle that is put together piece by- piece. While I know what the end picture will look like, the challenge is to find the right pieces and fit them together in a way that creates this vision.”

Automation has been a game-changer in the food and beverage industry, with companies cutting back immensely on commercial processes costs with the help of new technologies. Europe is a leader in implementing industry 4.0 solutions to streamline in this sector.

“I think that the food and beverage industry in general has always been an early adopter of new technologies – because the processes we use are simple, at least compared to say the oil or chemicals industries, integrating new technologies is much easier,” said Mark Tettelaar, manager of operations at Avebe, a Dutch company producing potato products.

“IFor us, the main goal of our digitalization is to get us to a level of automation that allows us to eliminate the risk of variations, which are the bane of the highly regulated food and beverage industry.”

The survey also interviewed Lamborghini’s Chief Manufacturing Officer Ranieri Niccoli, who put the company’s current level of digitalization at a high seven out of ten.

“At Lamborghini, digitalization touches on the entire production process, from designing the car to delivering it to the customer. In this sense, digitalization, and all the various technologies and processes involved, follow the development of the car,” said Niccoli.

While automation has proven to be an invaluable area of investment for any company that relies on manufacturing, some are not totally sold on AI – at least not yet.

“While I believe AI has great potential, it’s not yet mature enough for our needs. We need to first understand the technology before we can understand how to best use it. With AI, we’re just not there yet,” said Niccoli.

While it may not be the first innovative technology that leaders think of when considering industry 4.0, metaverse solutions could also become a serious part of the evolution towards the future of industry. The technology’s potential stretches far beyond video games, a previous study found that the so-called ‘industrial metaverse’ could end up being worth around $400 billion by 2030.