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Manufacturing CEOs: Don’t be Discouraged by How Fast 4IR is Evolving

05 March, 2020

Anil Khurana
Partner and Global Leader, PwC US
Bobby Bono
Industrial Manufacturing Leader, PwC US

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – or 4IR – is not an uncommon term anymore within the manufacturing industry. In fact, many organizations have implemented somewhat of a 4IR strategy – including technologies such as analytics, IoT sensors, drones, AI, and others which enable applications such as digital twinning and predictive maintenance and track and trace and others – into their holistic business plan and are reaping the benefits of their digital transformation.

However, a majority of companies have yet to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and they’re having a difficult time launching because the 4IR phenomenon is happening so quickly, making it harder for these organizations to react to it.

Adopting widespread digital transformation within an organization is a daunting task. Not only does it require upfront capital investment, but it also requires thorough and well-considered analysis of every process within the organization before proceeding with the implementation. And even when an organization thinks they’ve checked the box on all necessary processes, it’s possible that the technology has moved past them already.

Business leaders shouldn’t try to implement all these technologies into your organization at once. The first step is to have a change in mindset and accept that 4IR needs to be part of an organization’s DNA.

Our report, “Defining the new DNA of industrial digital organisations: The CEO’s agenda,” serves as a useful roadmap for industrial and manufacturing CEOs who are contemplating embarking on the 4IR journey. We have identified four initiatives that should be implemented in tandem to prepare an organization for the new digital age:

  1. Organizational change must start at the very top. As simple as this may sound, it probably is the toughest to execute. In order for a business to reap the maximum rewards and achieve a return on the initial investment, CEOs will need to drive organizational changes that address new digital capabilities, streamline digitized processes, and also encourage a degree of controlled experimentation. Strong leadership is an essential component if manufacturing is to truly harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  2. Hire a workforce that’s equipped with the right skill set, but also committed to lifelong learning. Some digitally “smart” manufacturers are gaining a competitive advantage by exploiting emerging technologies and trends such as digital twinning, predictive maintenance, track and trace, and modular design. Organizations need a workforce with the right skill set to maneuver these technologies while also being committed to continue learning and honing their skills as 4IR technologies evolve. Manufacturing CEOs and their executive teams need to hire more software and IoT engineers and data scientists – with a business mindset – while providing the right training to their existing employees to create a digitally smart workforce.
  3. Acquire more of the attributes of a software business. Software companies are nimble in that they are able to develop use cases quickly and turn them into software products, and a series of “releases.” Manufacturing companies will need a change of mindset and capabilities to think and act more like software businesses where they can develop products that combine physical and digital seamlessly, quickly adapt and optimize their processes, and develop and test changes on an ongoing basis.
  4. Digital transformation must extend beyond IT to include operational technology (OT). The Fourth Industrial Revolution is starting to cause a convergence between IT and OT in organizations. Therefore, technology investments that enable digitization must extend beyond IT to include significant OT such as track-and-trace solutions, asset management, and digital twinning. With this shift, CEOs now need an overview of both technology and operations to effectively drive these investments, rather than relying on a company’s CIO. Like we mentioned previously, everything must start from the very top.