Industry 4.0: CEOs Must Take the Lead

Industry 4.0 now finds applications in all sectors of activity and is revolutionizing the maintenance, security and purchasing sectors. Its practical nature suggests that its implementation is the prime responsibility of operational managers, as close as possible to the challenges in the field.

However, this is not the opinion of the major consulting firms specializing in digital transformation, which closely monitor the organizational impact of industry 4.0. Whether it is KPMG, Deloitte or McKinsey, all agree on the crucial role that the CEO, as the driving force behind digital transformation, must play in integrating i4.0 into new working methods.


Industry 4.0, of course, concerns the entire management chain. But CEOs can accelerate its implementation much more effectively than any other managerial level, and this is new.

The CEO, the link between business 4.0 and industry 4.0

However, CEOs are already highly mobilized by digital transformation, and by the evolution of their own core businesses. Business 4.0 entrusts them with the mission of refocusing major groups on consumer expectations - rather than on their strategic and operational issues. Thus, it is incumbent on CEOs to drive an evolution in the company's culture and working methods in order to build new, personalized relationships with customers.

As such, industry 4.0 participates and determines the success of business 4.0. It represents a powerful lever for reorganizing the company's operational functions. Its innovative tools introduce fluid and optimized management of the company's operational activities. 

Transforming the business lines: the case of maintenance and CMMS

One of the best-known applications of the i4.0 remains CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Systems). These tools, which are at first very technical, are in fact in line with the vision promoted by the CEO. 

Mobility Work, for example, makes Big Data available to maintenance teams. It is accessible without training but promotes a sharing of good practices through which all employees involved increase their skills. Its direct impact on the ground convinces teams and frees up resources that the CEO can redirect towards the transformation of the company.

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To achieve this objective, CEOs must proceed methodically. Fortunately, the still recent digital transformation is paving the way for a profound and transversal evolution of the company.

The 4 principles of 4.0 digital transformation

This method is first applied to soft skills. To drive and shape a new corporate culture, experts agree that leaders should embark not only on the managerial chain but also on all teams. The perfect strategy creates a sense of urgency among employees while reassuring and inspiring them with a practical demonstration of the benefits of innovation. Deployment on a pilot perimeter is particularly effective in this respect.

Beyond the corporate culture, digital transformation in general and the adoption of industry 4.0 in particular are based on: 

  • a formalized evolution of the business model - here, aligned with the objectives of business 4.0;

  • products designed to take full advantage of technological opportunities: human-machine interoperability, cloud-based service orientation, decentralized decision-making through machine learning...

  • and an effort to train teams, which goes beyond simply adapting to their new work environment to give them a more global vision of the issues that motivate change.

Each of these areas of action is expected to be translated into concrete applications throughout the company's operating chain. But it all starts with the impetus given by the CEO.

The mistake that CEOs must avoid

The long in-depth work that CEOs have already done on digital transformation informs and optimizes those preparing for industry 4.0. This is the time to learn from previous developments at the company - and in particular, from strategies that have failed.

"You can't just pay to bring your company to i4.0 maturity", warns Mun-Gu Park, an industry 4.0 specialist with KPMG in South Korea. He explains that only an advanced command of automation, data exploitation, analytics, and production, as well as a new way of thinking about products, can ensure that the i4.0 provides an authentic and sustainable benefit.

Too many departments reduce digital transformation to the implementation of innovative tools, such as CMMS software. But without the impetus of a transversal movement by the CEO, these tools remain gadgets. Worse still: an unsuccessful transformation can break the coherence of the company's operational processes.

The 4 successful CEO profiles in i4.0

These top-down guidelines should not overshadow the other side of success: the CEO's mission also involves adapting industry 4.0 to his company. To achieve this, Deloitte invites them to make change happen and to cultivate their determination, their bold vision, and their ability to make data-driven decisions.

These qualities are also embodied differently, depending on the type of leadership. Deloitte thus distinguishes four personas who particularly benefit from the i4.0: 

  • The Social Super inspires its teams by putting technology at the service of ethical objectives and profits;

  • the Data-Driven Decision Maker confidently takes ambitious decisions to develop his organization;

  • the Disrupter does not hesitate to invest in innovation, and uses its practical results to convince its teams;

  • and the Talent Champion relies on the recruitment of external talents and the training of internal ones to promote its digital transformation agenda.

Far from forcing CEOs and their organizations to comply with a single model, industry 4.0 optimizes each performance model.

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