How roadmaps show you when Industry 4.0 becomes relevant for you
Industry 4.0 is a megatrend and on everyone's lips. What exactly this means is entirely unclear. The uncertainty as to when the topic will become relevant for one's own company is therefore great. Roadmaps inform you when you should take a closer look at Industry 4.0 and the application in your company.
For a megatrend, Industrie 4.0 has a very unusual, almost conservative origin. The German Federal Government created the term when it named a working group of its High-Tech Strategy in 2011. Today, the term describes far more important things. Many already understand this as the fourth industrial revolution, which will cause at least as many social and economic changes as the three before. As a reminder:
- Industrial revolution: In the 1780s, the first water- or steam-driven production plants made it possible to mechanize production.
- Industrial revolution: Around 1870, the use of electricity and the first assembly lines allowed mass production based on the division of labour.
- Industrial revolution: Thanks to electronics and IT, machines can handle entire production steps themselves from the 1970s onwards.
With intelligence to unique pieces
The 4th industrial revolution we are currently experiencing describes the digitalization of manufacturing technology. The goal is an intelligent factory and logistics that uses resources more efficiently. It also involves customers and business partners in production and the value-added process.
Both the machines and the products themselves have 4.0 processors and sensors on board in industry and are networked via radio links. They are intelligent, so to speak. From the procurement of the raw material to the saleable product, the plants can control production completely themselves - without human intervention.
In concrete terms: The machines know about stock levels, they know when a service is due and report even if malfunctions are imminent. Above all, the production facilities also know what the customer wants. Because they are also networked with the last link in the value chain. This kind of intelligent and networked production can also produce individual pieces at conditions of large series.
Economy often feels overwhelmed
In theory, the possibilities of industry 4.0 seem tempting. Unfortunately, however, the practice is different. Concrete application examples such as Brau Union's fully integrated supply chain management are still in short supply. In many cases, the economy feels overwhelmed by the intelligent factory.
Do not fall out of the value chain
However, you cannot ignore this megatrend. Even if you do not work in a manufacturing industry. Because like any other company, yours has a place in the value chain. At the latest when a company upstream or downstream of your company addresses the topic of Industry 4.0, you must react. Because if your interfaces are no longer compatible with those of the other links in the value chain, then your company is in danger of falling out of this very chain. However, if you approach the topic proactively, you will have the opportunity to take over additional areas of the value chain through digitization.
Roadmaps help to demystify megatrends
A roadmap can show you exactly when you need to look more closely at megatrends, specifically the Industry 4.0 megatrend. To achieve a successful roadmap, you need the following ingredients: A trend universe that you have linked to the timeline and your innovation past.
Roadmap, and now what?
In practice, two models have proven their worth in mapping the Industry 4.0 megatrend in the roadmap:
- Industry 4.0 is reflected in your general roadmap. You can then divide the topic further into individual sub-trends to increase precision. Topics can be hardware, software, technology and the like. Important indicators to indicate the time relevant for you are the activities of your suppliers, partners and also competitors.
- You can also create your own roadmap for Industry 4.0. This then represents a second view or another level. This roadmap, which is specifically focused on a megatrend, can then be superimposed on your general roadmap - or not. Depending on the perspective from which you want to view the future of your company. Megatrends can also assert themselves more slowly than generally expected. Just think of the "paperless office", which has hardly been fully implemented in any company. A look at the future without Industry 4.0 can therefore also be instructive.
No matter which model you choose: You can then derive strategic search fields based on your roadmap. One such could be: "How do I make my intralogistics for industry 4.0 fit for the next five years" or "What changes do I have to consider in the ERP system? You should then ask an internal project team to specify this search field. Because you should always approach large topics with small steps. This is also the advice of an industry 4.0 expert like Ralf Nejedl, who is responsible for the machine-to-machine business in Europe at Deutsche Telekom. "Take off a pilot and learn from it," he advises in an interview.
Industry 4.0 promises a fascinating future and numerous new possibilities. The subject is complex, is constantly evolving at breakneck speed, and will also present your company with new challenges. But don't get into shock rigidity and get to grips with Industry 4.0 at your leisure. Use roadmaps to find out when the trend will also become relevant for you in Germany. And remember: Even the highest mountain is best climbed by the first small steps.
Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.