Chief Operations Officer, Irish Manufacturing Research
Industry 4.0 (I4.0) describes the ongoing evolution of manufacturing around the world. It is an attempt to characterise the impact of a suite of digital technologies that have reached maturity — being mainstream and economically accessible to companies.
The primary technologies included under the I4.0 banner are robotics, sensors, computing (AI, storage, cloud), additive manufacturing, AR/VR and digital twin/simulation.
Where forward-looking companies should be
The contention with Industry 4.0 is that we are living in a technology revolution where the rate of change is fast-paced and disruptive. Laggards may be adversely impacted if they do not embrace these new technologies. The assertion is that I4.0 has the power to radically transform how products are created, how supply chains are managed and how products are delivered.
The primary challenge for companies is: What exactly do I need to do, and how do I do it? Few companies start with a blank sheet in terms of technology implementation, but it can be challenging to develop a technology roadmap and implementation plan to deliver improved economic performance and meet current business needs.
Laggards may be adversely impacted if they do not embrace these new technologies.
Assessing where your company is and what to do
Using a digital maturity model can help you determine where your company is on the path to digital transformation. Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) use the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) to help companies identify key technology improvement priorities and identify a roadmap framework. In 2020, SIRI was adopted by the World Economic Forum as its recommended I4.0 maturity model for all member countries and organisations.
It comprises a suite of frameworks and tools to help manufacturers — regardless of size and industry — to start, scale and sustain their manufacturing transformation journeys. It examines the three core areas of process, technology and organisation. Very often, process and organisation are not considered important. Managers dive into the technology without understanding processes and people can often underwrite the failure of technology implementation.
Insights from comprehensive assessments
IMR conducted 34 SIRI assessments across a wide range of sectors including meat processing, heavy industry and advanced electronics. The primary opportunities emerging are Vertical Integration, Shopfloor Intelligence, Workforce L&D and Enterprise Intelligence. This reflects the need for ICT infrastructure and capabilities to enable value from company assets.
SIRI offers a global database where companies can benchmark against best in class across 16 dimensions in relevant sectors. The assessments can play a catalytic role in accelerating the digital transformation of the Irish manufacturing industry.