It should be a marathon, not a sprint

Originally posted by Erik Leijon on Postmedia Content Works on June 4th 2018

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a company’s transition into Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 — meaning an industrial revolution toward digital technologies — may appear grand and intimidating on the surface, but Nancy Jalbert, partner and management consultant at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, cautioned that making the jump isn’t about upending a business just for the sake of it, but rather a gradual transformation based on longstanding priorities.

“While it’s true that we don’t have a choice when it comes to integrating technology, this all needs to be connected to a specific goal or business strategy. Any organization that wants to transform itself needs to look at their strategy and invest in their priorities. That’s the first question any business needs to ask,” Jalbert said.

“It’s not about changing an entire company in a year, but about taking the first step.”

An Industry 4.0 digital shift can mean something as small as improving efficiency on a production line or removing intermediaries. It can also entail bringing clients deeper into the production process, by letting them know directly about inventory or customization options. With artificial intelligence, companies can use data to predict future trends, like when a particular item might become popular.

The thought of digitizing might conjure a dystopian vision of a fully automated system doing all the work and, as such, Jalbert said working with companies to integrate new technology requires a certain amount of demystification.

“It’s about more than just technology,” she said. “Some companies do it specifically to better serve their clients and only (for) that reason. It’s only when a company is aware of their priorities that they can measure a return on investment and determine what steps can be taken that will get them further. The truth is, there are so many ways to integrate technology at every stage of production.”

Industry 4.0 can also lead businesses to review their financing and, if it leads them abroad, to revisit taxes and implications

Another myth Jalbert was keen to dispel is that automation will mean no longer contending with workforce shortages, or that it will eliminate the need for people at all. In reality, she said, businesses should expect to hire differently, because the need for workers who can analyze the numbers and performance indicators will increase. It’s one of many ways we see the workforce changing from the assembly line to the computer screen.

“It will open other jobs with added value,” she said.

Jalbert also observed that current incentives to integrate new technology offered by provincial and federal levels of government and organizations can make a 4.0 jump more possible for small companies. It behooves companies to look into it now, either with fully open eyes or a degree of skepticism. There are accelerators out there that can make the process less intimidating.

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton is a leader in performing 4.0 diagnostics, and can accompany a company’s evolution from start to finish. They have the resources.
It’s important to remember that the embracing of particular technologies can vary between companies. There are those who might find value in artificial intelligence, the highest use of data within an organization. Others, Jalbert pointed out, can derive considerable information from a spreadsheet. She said descriptive analysis (observing), diagnostic analysis (understanding), and predictive analysis are all effective tools when it comes to exploiting data, and there’s no wrong way for a company to go about better informing itself with the information attained.

Because technology is constantly changing, diving headlong into a manufacturing 4.0 shift too quickly can mean not being optimized in the right places. By making changes as needed and without feeling the urge to rush, a company can gradually make its way through the fast-paced technological revolution without losing its identity in the process.

An Industry 4.0 audit is designed to provide a clear path toward a 4.0 transformation based on actual needs.

“The idea behind 4.0 is to integrate new technology gradually and as it happens, rather than jump into it,” Jalbert said. “It’s about putting technology where you need it.”


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton.