• Christoph Wolleb, Director |

Swiss manufacturing and i4.0: The time for experimenting is ending

The fourth industrial revolution has arrived. But Swiss manufacturers are not keeping pace with the speed of transformational change it brings. This represents a real danger to the country’s industrial base. Unless radical action is taken, Swiss businesses will be overtaken by disruptive competitors and new market entrants.

Single project, bottom-up approaches to transformation are the current norm. From physical plant changes to the integration of big data – too many companies show cost efficiencies as evidence of their effective i4.0 transformation. This gives senior executives a false sense of security. It also misses the point of i4.0 entirely.

The digital revolution is about much more than cost efficiencies

In my experience, firms that focus on small-scale, short-term change will produce small-scale, short-term benefits. By the time they realize they should have done more, it is often too late. Firms need to embrace new business and operating models, involving an overhaul of how they carry out their activities. This requires a focused approach by C-level executives to deliver a top-down strategy to implement large scale change to meet the realities of modern manufacturing.

I see organizations reap only marginal value from pilot projects that are disconnected from each other and are not part of a broader strategy. I strongly suggest that manufacturers define what the organization needs to look like tomorrow to be competitive or disruptive.

Four success factors

With this in mind, design a strategy that uses available breakthrough i4.0 tools and technologies to deliver holistic business transformation. The strategy should be accompanied by a detailed plan that creates a culture of wholesale change.

Focus on the following key areas:

  1. Build the strategy from the corner office, not the plant floor;
  2. Redesign your organization from functional silos to a value network;
  3. Create a dynamic culture that embraces the enterprise value of new digital technologies;
  4. Throw out your current KPIs; it’s time to rethink how to measure success.

A lot will happen between now and 2020. Manufacturers don’t need to have completed their journey by then, but they must be well on their way. Having the right foundations in place is vital: a strategic approach, a holistic plan for transformation, and the right culture to embrace change. This will give them a fighting chance to thrive – or even survive – in the i4.0 era.

Read our new report A Reality Check for Today’s C-suite on Industry 4.0 – experimentation is ending (PDF) to find out more.

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