Blog Post Industry 4.0 a primer




Industry 4.0 a primer

Industry 4.0 intro

Interesting and useful report on Industry 4.0 from Plant Magazine and BDO You will have to handover an email address (real or imaginary) for a copy. Ignore first third of the report, it’s industry profiling, you want to get to the meat.

The report doesn’t tell you what to do, that would be impossible but make some very good points:

What is Industry 4.0 about?

Industry 4.0 covers a raft of new technology and terminology; These are the main ones:

  • IIOT / IOT Industrial Internet of Things using private networks and web to link sensors and equipment including to 3rd parties such as an equipment supplier
  • M2M machine to machine communications usually telemetry or telematics part of IIOT
  • Cloud Computing – there are an incredible number of programs to support your business that you are likely not aware of. is an awesome resource to explore what is available to help you3
  • Data Capture, particularly machine and environment monitoring, such as real time quality monitoring
  • Digital Transformation –using digital technology to solve problems and conduct business in new or different ways, ERP falls into this category
  • Robotics and Automation
  • 3D printing & Additive manufacturing
  • Virtual Reality, valuable in prototyping, testing ideas and training not just for games
  • Artificial Intelligence/machine learning, excellent for certain problems but don’t fall for all the hype
  • Advanced analytics – using better tools than Excel to analyse data, especially data visualization tools

Courtesy of & BDO

The biggest factors to be aware of:

Planning as with most of life, planning is everything. Consider all the bases including the current situation, timelines, risks, people and destination. Have a road map that can adapt to reflect business and technology changes.

Self awareness, if you are a digital native, this will be a natural evolution of your business. If you are not a native, then consider how your preferences may be limiting your willingness to invest time and money.

De-risk where you can by trialing and working with partners. Don’t do a full rollout, try certain machines to see what works, some companies will even let you ‘borrow’ a robot to see if it can do the job and don’t forget your local University. The University of Calgary is doing some good work in this field.

Government is not going to help you here. They want to help but the offerings are disconnected. Unless you have someone dedicated to chasing the money the ROI on your time could be low. There is also a long-standing challenge with capital funding and tax needing addressing.

Make data actionable, if the data has to go back up the reporting tree for action to happen you are going to lose out on benefits. The better authority and structure you put in place for those connected to the equipment and data to take decisions the better results you will get.

An old adage but don’t collect data for the sake of it. Collect data and use it. If you are drowning in data, you are probably collecting the wrong data or using it wrongly and wasting effort.

Be cyber secure, the more networked your equipment and people are, the more exposed you are to cyber threats. The biggest risks are phishing attacks and ransomware, and the best defence is training and testing your staff. This is valid for every company with an email address. Back up data multiple ways, in the cloud and hard local copies. Have a plan for the day you are compromised detailing how you will get back up and running.

People and skills, this is a hard part. You will need changes and the people you want leading change will not be those who see manufacturing in 3D (dirty, dull and dangerous–it never should be). You want people with technical skills who can look at problems and learn for themselves and how you manage these people will also need to be different to traditional trades management.


Finally, from the report “Start with the problem you’re trying to solve and find the right tools (or support) to solve it… Approach this in terms of the change you want to make rather than the change you want to avoid.”

The upside of Industry 4.0 will depend on where you want to focus efforts, reliability, quality, productivity and innovation. Align your Industry 4.0 strategy to your businesses strategy. Plan a roadmap, take the first steps and learn. The only thing I can guarantee any company doing Industry 4.0 is it will be a learning process and those that have clarity in what they want to achieve and learn iteratively are going to do best.

Applied Performance Ltd is a manufacturing and operations consulting company based in Calgary specializing in enabling companies to improve productivity.

To learn more call us today at 403-470-1659, or email

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