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Scaling Digitization Projects into an M4.0 Strategy

Posted By Jeff Moad, February 02, 2017 at 11:42 AM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

wm_ebb71bf5f02c8ede457576927a9f1fe8.jpgIt’s one thing to take on a small, well-defined project aimed at proving the potential of digitizing a process such as maintenance on a single line or in an individual plant. It’s quite another to take the experiences gathered from such small projects and build them into a Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap that aligns with the strategy defined by the company’s senior leadership team.

How manufacturers can design and execute small digitization projects in such a way that they can be expanded and form the foundation for a coherent M4.0 strategy was the topic of a recent presentation to the Manufacturing Leadership Council by Beth Parkinson, Director of Market Development, The Connected Enterprise, at Rockwell Automation. The presentation was part of the ML Council’s year-long series of “Critical Issues” webinars for Council members.

Parkinson said that, even if initial M4.0 proof-of-concept projects start out small, it is essential that they address an important business challenge, one that has resisted solution previously and that can be clearly communicated to enterprise leaders. The specific business problem being addressed will, of course, be different for each company. But many, said Parkinson, are beginning by using Internet-of-Things technologies and analytics to enable prescriptive maintenance of plant equipment. In the food and beverage vertical, for example, many companies are launching M4.0 projects intended to provide the visibility needed to comply with intensifying regulation.

Next, said Parkinson, manufacturing leaders must gather support for proof-of-concept projects from top company leadership by clearly articulating the important business problem being addressed. Even if the project is small in scope, manufacturing leaders must be able to present it as an important test case deserving of top executive attention, Parkinson said. That will make it easier, once the project is successful, to convince the CFO to get behind reinvesting the returns in the next, larger initiative.

“If senior management sees that you are targeting a key problem, then you can build proof and funding to keep growing it,” Parkinson told the ML Council members. “But it’s got to be tied to business value, and it’s got to benefit a challenge that needs solving.”

When initial proof-of-concept projects stumble, said Parkinson, manufacturers must be willing to “fail fast” and move on to the next project.

Manufacturers must also design initial proof-of-concept M4.0 projects in such a way that, if successful, they are scalable. Manufacturers, for example, must design projects that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to enable self-healing behaviors at the individual machine level in such a way that the same technologies can provide the even larger benefits at the plant level and even across multiple plants, said Parkinson.

Finally, said Parkinson, manufacturing leaders must rise above organizational cynicism that may exist when it comes to technology-based change initiatives. Core technologies have improved, and the stakes have changed. Manufacturers that fail to develop a M4.0 strategy and roadmap may not survive.

“If we don’t make changes, we’ll be left behind,” said Parkinson.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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