Between 2016 and 2020, the automotive sector will experience a 3.9% reduction in costs per annum in large part because of the implementation of advanced automation and industry 4.0 initiatives. With estimated productivity gains of as much as 30% and a significant drop in maintenance costs, early IIoT adopters are reaping the rewards of their investments.

impactful changes industry 4.0

It’s no surprise then that the number of highly digitized manufacturers is expected to nearly double in that time period. For those that were not among the earliest adopters or who are just starting to scale their efforts, there are significant gains to be made through Industry 4.0 optimization. If you don’t act soon, though, the industry’s earliest pioneers will start to open up a significant lead.

At the same time, despite the evident value of Industry 4.0, manufacturers remain wary of how best to implement it. Only 16% of manufacturers have an overall strategy according to McKinsey, and only 24% have assigned someone to oversee those efforts. What we know as a result of this is that while there are abundant technology trends to draw on – 3D printing, robotics, IoT implementation – the process starts with people. The most successful Industry 4.0 initiatives focus on a narrow band of applications and the most impactful are those that empower people. Below are five that do so effectively.

Digital Work Instructions

Used to teach, direct and develop the front line, digital work instructions offer significant benefits that address several key areas of productivity including:

  • Training Time – Workers have progressive, customized training tools at their disposal constantly.
  • Work Repetitions – Work can be more readily standardized with a digital guide to processes.
  • People Performance – With digital training matrices, companies can pair the best front-line workers with the highest value tasks to maximize the productivity and impact of their employees.
  • Rotation Management and Absenteeism – Technology makes it easier to manage staff locations based on where they provide the greatest value in an organization.

Connected Worker Platform to Transfer Knowledge

Two of the core pillars of Lean are visibility and continuous improvement. Connected worker technology is designed to address both of these by removing barriers between employees at different levels and positions in the company.

The third pillar of Lean is standardization. By capturing the hidden factory, connected worker technology helps achieve this goal. This is done by:

  • Improving Reporting – Using a digital andon cord, front line workers breakthrough communications silos and gain real-time access to maintenance, safety, HR, materials, engineering and management.
  • Tracking Issues – By opening up a communications platform to all employees, the platform tracks all problems and creates a repository for reference, expediting future response times.

Many companies only track issues that impact the customer directly. Often, these are just the tip of the iceberg, representing much larger problems that could have been detected and prevented earlier with the right tools. That’s what Industry 4.0 enables.

Associate Engagement

Expertise is hard-earned. It takes upwards of a decade of dedicated, precise practice to reach such a level – something your best front line workers have done. To create value at the front line, that expertise needs to be captured and leveraged – something technology enables.

With a digital work instruction platform, notes and instructions can be created right at the digital work instruction step. This is the best way to Kaizen a specific issue while creating visibility into what was changed, who implemented the changes, and the immediate impact of those changes.

Engineers can subsequently review these notes and make changes to the formal process accordingly. The result is an agile process that enables rapid review and adjustment of work processes without the development of hidden factory solutions. Associates are better engaged and help to generate value for your organization.

Going Paperless

One of the simplest and yet most impactful changes Industry 4.0 offers is the ability to go paperless. Some examples include:

  • Paperless inspections and verifications using mobile devices and flexible digital checklists.
  • An easy tool to create and modify checklists and push updates to all relevant devices.
  • Replacement of paper logs with digital logs between shifts to makeshift transfer more effective.
  • Delivering quality alerts and other notifications electronically to every associate where they can acknowledge receipt and review.

The BMW San Luis Potosi plant has seen significant gains through these changes, greatly improving overall productivity with a paperless workflow. See how they did it here.

Digital Inspections

In working with a major automotive group recently, Andonix helped implement a digital inspection solution with the following steps:

  1. Production reports an issue to the assembly line.
  2. Supplier quality assurance immediately issues a ticket to inspect the material and the supplier.
  3. The materials team and inspection team are notified simultaneously.
  4. The supplier sends critical data and their inspection method, which is then digitized by the inspection team and sent for electronic approval to the supplier.
  5. Approval happens in minutes, allowing an inspection to start almost immediately, keeping the assembly line running.
  6. The supplier implements corrective actions in real-time, allowing the plant materials team to predict and prevent materials shortages.
  7. This allows other plants to monitor the problem and take action to address issues with similar parts.

This process works because of the implementation of a digital work instruction and connected worker platform that allows all stakeholders to see data and collaborate in real-time.

Industry 4.0 and the Impact of Digital Transformation

Manufacturers who invest in Industry 4.0 technology see significant gains and long-term improvements in how they do business. Front line workers become knowledge workers who create value throughout the organization, increasing productivity, reducing costs, and enabling future growth.

Learn more about how the managerial model that guides front line workers is being transformed and new value is being created through industry 4.0 initiatives in our recent eBook.