One question I get a lot focuses on the difference between Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. “Aren’t they the same thing?” Well, they are and they aren’t. The Internet of Things is a construct by which objects are connected and made smarter. Industry 4.0 connotes the fourth Industrial Revolution, in which this interplay between digital technologies and the physical world is scaled to an industrial level to enable connected production, supply chains, business operations, and beyond. In essence, it’s a scaled up, amped up, industrialized version of the IoT—which is why Industry 4.0 is also known to some as the Industrial Internet of Things.
|It can be helpful to think of smart connectivity in this way, as a spectrum of sorts. This can help organizations not only to think through how to scale their connected operations, but how to take that first step.
Mark Cotteleer explores these concepts in his recent webinar for Harvard Business Review, “How the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 are Reshaping Manufacturing.” In this discussion, Mark not only introduces Deloitte’s concept of the physical-to-digital-to-physical loop as a way to conceptualize how digital information from many different sources and locations can drive the physical act of production and distribution, he delves deeper into what that actually means in a practical, everyday sense. It can be great to talk about the marriage of Information Technologies (IT) and Operations Technologies (OT), but understanding how that actually changes things in a hands-on, tangible way can be extremely useful.
To that end, Mark explores the various uses of connected technologies along a spectrum, from using relatively simple sensors for logistics-related activities (such as sensing and tracking location, movement, humidity, temperature, and other environmental conditions, respectively), to predictive maintenance, to creating a digital thread, all the way to building and driving a full digital twin.
Thinking of implementing Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT technologies along a spectrum of capabilities can be helpful as organizations seek to get started. Diving straight into a fully-fledged, fully-functional digital twin can not only feel overwhelming, it can be downright impossible; this requires getting buy-in from leadership, investing in the right technologies, and building capabilities and the appropriate technology architectures. But starting with understanding how sensors can be used in more discrete applications, like tracking one’s movements in heavy traffic, for example, or understanding when humidity gets high enough in the back of a truck for shipments to get affected, can help pave the way. Eventually, the organization can gain enough experience and expertise to start applying connected technologies in more sophisticated ways, to drive bigger impact.
For this reason, Mark encourages thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast: understanding the possibilities Industry 4.0, but starting with an achievable project to prove its value, and scaling up from there. After all, Industry 4.0 isn’t just for the larger enterprises – it’s something small and midsize firms can benefit from as well.
To learn more and watch the full webinar, visit HBR.
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