Industry 4.0: The human touchpoint

Industry 4.0: The human touchpoint

Once again, there is a new buzzword that promises nothing less than a new industrial revolution: Industry 4.0. Many of the terms and ideas surrounding Industry 4.0 are strikingly similar to those used in connection with CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) in the mid/end of the 1980s. Today, we are much more technologically advanced than back then, especially when it comes to hardware and software technologies.

Alongside lean management and the Toyota Production System, these advances in IT technology are probably the most important drivers for the further development of planning and control methods. Following Moore’s Law, hardware and software have developed dramatically. Today, computer technology makes things possible that would have seemed like science fiction 25 years ago. A 4GB main memory, for example, as found in every modern laptop, built using the high-end magnetic core memory technology of 1978, would take up the space of 9.5 truckloads of 32 Euro pallets each.

In terms of software and hardware technology, we are not so far away from planning and controlling production and procurement processes in a “self-optimizing, self-diagnosing and self-adapting” way without human intervention.

However, Industry 4.0 also demands People 4.0; our mentality and ways of thinking have not kept pace with developments in IT and PPS. Why is it that the actual progress in forecasting, production control or scheduling has only been very modest in practice, despite broader and more differentiated technical support options? Production control such as scheduling, planning and forecasting are statistical processes that we humans find very difficult. For this reason, statistical correlations that we have known for years from business organization research are usually ignored in operational practice.

In addition, there are conceptual deficits at management level: there are no clear, consistent guidelines on how to achieve the desired corporate goal of the highest possible and sustainable earnings. Today, it is common practice to translate the overall objective of a company into one-dimensional, mutually contradictory divisional objectives. But no strategy for the most economical value chain can be derived from this! There is no clear logistical positioning as long as each division has to strive for a different, “private” optimum in the value chain in order to meet its targets: One area is rewarded for capacity utilization, the next for short lead times, a third for adherence to delivery dates, others for delivery capability, low inventories or process automation.

However, a consistent strategy for the economic design of the value chain is an essential prerequisite for planning and managing the new Factory 4.0. In 1989, together with colleagues from the Research Institute for Rationalization at RWTH Aachen University, I published extensive studies on the success factors of a CIM strategy under the title “CIM between claim and reality”. We came to the conclusion that the success of CIM depends 1/3 on the human factor, 1/4 on the technology, 1/5 on the organization, 1/6 on the corporate culture and 1/20 on the market. This formula probably still applies to Factory 4.0.

A quarter of a century ago, the CIM visions failed technically before they even had to prove themselves in practical application. The success of Factory 4.0. will depend on the ability of managers and employees to open themselves mentally and conceptually to change. Business psychologists are at least as necessary for a functioning Factory 4.0 strategy as engineers and computer scientists.

Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Talk to us!

We are there for you personally and will be happy to advise you individually on our services and solutions.