Fostering Industry 4.0 Growth and Innovation

Today's digitized world demands a different way of thinking in business. That's where Industry 4.0 comes in. Modern manufacturing leaders need to explore and use Industry 4.0 principles to differentiate their products and gain additional market share.

The digital age has permanently disrupted the status quo for manufacturing leaders. The industry has swiftly evolved from a materials-driven business to one driven by information. Not surprisingly, a parade of new technologies has revolutionized production.

This digitized world, referred to as Industry 4.0, is ripe with the potential for innovation and collaboration. However, many manufacturers are still wondering how to create an innovation process that can propel their business into a more profitable future.

Steve Holly, Onix Director of Solutions Engineering; Michael Yost, Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) International President; and Michael Walton, Google Cloud Head of Manufacturing Industry participated in an Industry 4.0 webinar and discussed how the rise of cloud computing, Big Data and analytics have all changed the game for manufacturing.

Even more disruptive are robotics, machine learning, advanced automation and enhanced remote control capabilities. The raw materials of yesterday are now combined with intelligent processes that speed time to market. All of this sounds as if it should add up to an easily accessible advantage for manufacturers. So why are so many feeling behind the times?

Digital World Causes Business Shift

One reason is that the mere availability of digital tools is not enough incentive for companies to differentiate themselves and prevent the commodification of their products and services. Manufacturers must foster a culture of collaboration and innovation as Industry 4.0 marches into the future with new business models that will affect all aspects of business, including product development, knowledge management and more.

Consider the many challenges confronting leaders. One company knows that virtual reality can offer cost-effective test environments to evaluate their new model, yet the organization isn’t sure how to use the technology.

Another has data in silos, stopping them from sharing insights and process improvements and slowing down their flow of progress. And while a third business understands that a smart innovation process is often inspired by effective collaboration between suppliers, producers and customers, it may lack the tools necessary to keep teams connected and collaborative.

Mastering this new learning curve is no longer just a benefit; it’s a competitive necessity. Those who successfully cultivate a thriving company culture will unlock tremendous advantages and stake their claim in the new manufacturing landscape. Those who don’t will find themselves struggling to stay relevant.

The Changing Face of Cloud Collaboration

Webinar panelists were asked how this new era can empower manufacturing enterprises to produce better products — faster and at lower cost. They were also asked how G Suite and Google Cloud Platform can spark a productive innovation process to help organizations capitalize on the Industry 4.0 advantage.

Yost pointed out that many businesses are still experimenting with digital when they should be committing to transforming themselves into a fully digital business. This kind of commitment leads to products of greater value, and shorter and faster innovation cycles. It also helps them cater to customers expecting faster time to market, personalization and more feature availability.

The obstacle? Many manufacturers just aren’t innovating effectively. They tend to put their innovation eggs all in one basket, despite a long industry history suggesting that this is an unwise tactic. Because many are still dealing with data and systems trapped in silos, they can’t leverage their knowledge beyond the floor. Even though they collect massive amounts of data, they keep experiencing the same delays and inaccuracies.

These limitations particularly frustrate the new generation of collaborative and tech-savvy workers who expect to work with cloud-based tools. Given the need to recruit and retain top talent, keeping these new workers satisfied and productive should be a top priority for the manufacturing industry.

Cultivating a Winning Culture

Walton pointed out that customer expectations are accelerating the innovation timeline, as are the IoT (Internet of Things) and new technologies, both by shortening time to market. These developments can drive all initiatives forward — from performance management to quality to production —  but are especially fruitful for fostering innovation. One of the most important toolsets fosters cloud collaboration. With so many teams working globally and remotely, these tools can help organizations stay competitive in the market, accomplish more with smaller teams and cater to the needs of demanding customers.

While there have been groundbreaking advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the speakers noted that both technologies are still in the early adopter stage. Yet, these technical advancements offer big possibilities for Industry 4.0. By using advanced learning algorithms to predict new trends, for instance, early adopters are crossing the chasm to discover innovative new products and lean manufacturing tools, such as enterprise search, before anyone else.

Innovating with Industry 4.0 and Google Cloud

With effective collaboration, an ongoing challenge in Industry 4.0, Yost was asked how MESA fosters communication and synergy in its ranks. By going Google, adopting G Suite and using applications like Google Calendar, Hangouts and others, the MESA team is using social and cloud tools to share files, disseminate knowledge and interact more dynamically over voice and video chat.

Holly mentioned the value of embracing smart technology and a “21st century business mindset.” For instance, the Google Cloud Platform and Onix help businesses shift workloads into the cloud so organizations can focus on their core missions. One company, struggling with slow batch processes, re-engineered using Google Cloud to stream data real time – helping teams improve their decision-making processes. Another manufacturer with 13 different business units used Google Hangouts to hold town hall meetings, helping thousands of employees feel more connected and unified — with no audio video equipment investment required.

If there’s one lesson to take away from the webinar, it’s that developing a successful innovation process is critical to Industry 4.0 growth. But, as Steve Holly mentioned, partnering a culture of collaboration with Google tools can help organizations develop the breakthrough achievements that put them on the map.

To view the on-demand webinar, click here.


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Steve Holly, Product Manager, Chrome & Devices

Steve Holly, Product Manager, Chrome & Devices

Since 2008, Steve has been on the forefront of the transition to cloud-based services. He has helped companies like Whirlpool, Lexmark, Fujifilm America, Celestica, The New York Times, and the Canadian Broadcast Corporation make the transition to Google’s cloud-based services. Steve spent six years in the Navy, where he got his start in computers. During his service, he visited Japan, Thailand, Bali, Austrailia, Hong Kong, and more.