Industry 4.0 and change management

Industry 4.0 is made up of smart machines capable of solving the challenges of automation. It is made up of hybrid systems, connecting physical assets and digital networks through the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as predictive analysis tools for production and maintenance.

Production and consumption patterns are changing as these new technologies progress. The manufacturing industry is now governed by the constant interactions between machines and people. The performance prospects are commensurate with the application possibilities. Nevertheless, the potential of Industry 4.0 can only be fully realized if every actor of the value chain acknowledges the necessary transformation that it implies. 

Industry 4.0 is happening now

What does Industry 4.0 hold?

If anything, the past few years have shown that the industrial sector is particularly sensitive to the rise of new technologies.

On the one hand, an entire ecosystem is being altered by the omnipresence of these next-gen tools. First, consumption patterns have evolved at an unprecedented rate over the past decade. Consumers are increasingly turning to "tailor-made" products, forcing manufacturers to be highly flexible and rethink their production models.

Within the market, competitive dynamics are also challenged. New actors are emerging, driven by innovative and affordable tools, threatening the status quo. Leaders must reinvent themselves if they are to maintain their position.

On the other hand, the factories themselves undergo a digital disruption. Divided between the need for flexibility in order to meet the demand and the need for performance to survive in an increasingly competitive environment, manufacturers are reinventing the production line.

Gradually, the factories are being restructured around next-gen solutions. With Industry 4.0, the supply chain is shifting away from a vertical and linear model, towards a circular organization. Thanks to robotics, smart sensors, and data analysis, information flows freely within the company in the form of a cyclic flow:

1. Operators collect information about equipment, stocks or material flows using IoT (Internet of Things) and create a virtual copy. The vast majority of companies today systematically gather their data using CRM, ERP or CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) software.

While developing Mobility Work CMMS, our aim was to help companies to leverage the full potential of their data for their maintenance teams.

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2. Data is shared and analyzed by powerful algorithms to extract strategic information for companies to optimize their activities and processes.

3. Based on the results of these analyses, leaders are able to take concrete actions for the future of their services. Ultimately, each strategic decision will be based on a set of concrete data and predictive analytics, rather than subjective assessments.

Despite its positive impact on their operational performance, a large number of companies report that they do not carry out an in-depth analysis of their data on a regular basis. It is not enough to collect data at the field level to ensure a successful digital transformation. Engaging in Industry 4.0 requires applying these precepts at every level of the company.

What is change management?

Change is therefore inevitable. Avoiding or refusing it can only lead to failure. On the contrary, embracing change seems to be the secret to the success of the most innovative and profitable companies today.

However, such a transformation does not happen overnight. It is a long-term process, requiring everyone’s commitment for it to succeed. We all display a certain form of natural resistance when it comes to change, which can lead to mistrust and skepticism. This is why it is essential to quickly support a culture of change within the company.

Change management is a set of methods designed to support employees in situations of major transition - such as digital transformation. Adopting a change management strategy at an early stage of the project helps to allay fears and encourage the adoption of new tools and practices.

How to prepare for Industry 4.0?

As with any major change, preparing for a transition to Industry 4.0 will be accompanied by its share of uncertainties. Every organization needs a clear vision to project itself in the future and face it with confidence. Drawing up a detailed schedule will give them the agility and serenity necessary to achieve it.

Planning your transition allows you to better understand the financial, human and organizational consequences. In addition, defining your project helps you lay the foundations for long-term growth: cost and resource management, employee engagement, risk management, etc.

Planning is an opportunity for project leaders to establish a framework for all stakeholders. This provides an opportunity to review the goals of the digital transformation: what are the company's needs? What are its priorities? What technological contributions will support its success? Communicating these objectives will also have a beneficial effect on the commitment of employees, who will feel involved in decision-making.

In the same vein, it is advisable to segment the project into stages with the most precise deadlines possible. Naturally, each of these stages also involves tasks and sub-objectives as well as financial, human and material resources.

Finally, this first stage provides project stakeholders with visibility on the potential obstacles they will have to face. However, on the path to Industry 4.0, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is probably the human factor. To this end, change management offers interesting prospects.

Put Employees at the Heart of Industry 4.0

For many employees, change can be a source of anxiety: from misunderstanding the project’s aims to the frustration of not being able to grasp their new work environment.

According to a study published by the consulting firm CEB in 2016, more than 70% of companies would favor a top-down approach in order to achieve results quickly. However, considering the flexibility promoted by Industry 4.0, such a method no longer seems appropriate. The change shouldn’t be forced; it must be accepted by the teams concerned. This is called employee engagement.

Change management now advocates a more modern, more inclusive methodology. From the planning phase onwards, it is recommended to identify detractors and supporters of the project. The objective is, through a series of actions, to make them actors of change and thus to facilitate the adoption of new technologies.

In this open-source approach, the human factor becomes a real lever of digital transformation. It is common for project owners to identify and integrate into the process some collaborators who are open to change. Throughout the transition period, the latter will play the role of ambassadors (or “champions”). These open-minded people will naturally promote the project in the field by encouraging their colleagues to adopt new technologies.

It is equally important to quickly identify the critics of the project. Under no circumstances should their apprehensions be neglected. For your digital transformation to be successful, it is essential to highlight the benefits for each department.

For example, a maintenance technician could feel threatened by the rise of Industry 4.0. The aim is to demonstrate how a next-gen CMMS, combined with IoT sensors for example, will simplify his daily tasks.

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Wherever they are, maintenance technicians have access to equipment from Mobility Work's mobile CMMS

In any case, the project leaders will have to support employees as much as possible. To do this, they should be provided with all the necessary resources (teaching materials, training, tutoring, technical assistance, etc.) to facilitate the use of their new tools.

In developing the Mobility Work platform, we have designed intuitive and easy-to-use solutions to support our users throughout their digital transformation.

Communicate and Adapt

In times of change, communication is crucial. It is only through clear communication and frequent exchanges with every stakeholder that a climate of trust can be established.

To this end, it is necessary to define a communication plan, the first step of which will be to explain to the entire organization the motivations behind this digital transformation, its unfolding, but above all its benefits (both strategic and operational). To do this, the project owners can rely on their ambassadors, who will be keen to relay this information to their close collaborators.

However, they will also have to be careful not to establish a one-way communication. The very relevance of the project - and of Industry 4.0 - lies in the fact that it is designed for and by the technical teams. It is also a good idea to bring together a multidisciplinary team around the digital transformation to discuss the project's development prospects.

It is, for example, by considering the daily problems of maintenance teams, and by interacting directly with them that Mobility Work CMMS was designed.

Change is a long-term process. Too often, companies reduce their efforts along the way. Engaging in a genuine dialogue within the organization, and multiplying the number of communication channels, makes it possible to ensure the sustainability of the program. After a while, the employees will take over the strategy themselves. It is then up to decision-makers to provide them with the means to exchange good practices, advice and mutual assistance...

While flexibility and interconnectivity are at the core of Industry 4.0, they also apply to change management. In order to guarantee the success of their business, managers must constantly ensure the consistency of their actions. Collecting and analyzing feedback from the field, as well as tangible data, will allow them to adjust their trajectory according to the company's needs.