An Industry 4.0 checklist you can actually use

Last updated on September 28th, 2022

So, how’s the digital transformation going?

For a lot of manufacturers that’s like asking, “How’s the diet going?”

If it was going well, you’d definitely be hearing about it.

The unfortunate truth is that many manufacturers are still struggling to join the fourth industrial revolution. A recent Capgemini survey found that more than half of respondents are having difficulties implementing smart factory initiatives, with only 14% reporting successful deployments. According to the respondents, the three biggest challenges are the deployment and integration of digital platforms and technologies, data readiness/cybersecurity, and the development of appropriate skill sets.

It’s not much of a leap to trace the first challenge back to the second and third; if your data isn’t ready to be leveraged, your cybersecurity is lacking, and your people don’t have the necessary skills, it’s no wonder your company is struggling to deploy and integrate Industry 4.0 technologies.

For many manufacturers, the real issue isn’t figuring out how to get to Industry 4.0—it’s how to start in the first place. That’s why you’ll find all sorts of digital transformation checklists and assessment tools online. The trouble is, they tend to be rather vague and unhelpful.

When you see advice like “Always Secure Everything” or “Consider How Potential Technologies Would Align with Your Business Objectives”, you might start to wonder whether Industry 4.0 really is just another empty buzzword.

Marketing hyperbole aside, the fourth industrial revolution is real, and so are the consequences of being late to the party. Research firm MarketsandMarkets has predicted that the smart factory market will be worth $244.8B by 2024, driven by “rapid adoption of advanced manufacturing solutions by manufacturers to improve visibility, operational excellence, and quality, while reducing the lead time.”

In light of the dearth of articles and “checklists” that actually offer practical advice for Industry 4.0, we decided to make our own. Read on to find out how you can ensure a successful start to your digital transformation or click the button below to download our Industry 4.0 Checklist.

Industry 4.0 Data Checklist

It’s no exaggeration to say that data is the lifeblood of Industry 4.0. Regardless of the product or production technology, collecting and leveraging data is what the fourth industrial revolution is all about. Hence, if you’re looking to bring a manufacturing task into the 21st century, the first questions you should ask yourself are about the data.

  • What type of data does your application generate
    • Examples include single-value, time-series, labelled or unlabelled, etc.
  • How much data does your application generate and how often
    • Specified in terms of bytes, number of signals, or number of columns/rows
  • In what format is your data stored?
    • Common formats include CSV, JSON, HDF5, and SQL Databases
    • Storage types include Key-Value Stores, Data Warehouses and Data Lakes + Data Catalogues

If you can answer these questions—or at least know how to go about getting the answers—then you’ve already cleared one of the most common roadblocks to smart factory initiatives. Of course, as crucial as data is, it’s really only half the equation.

Industry 4.0 Connectivity Checklist

Plant floors have been suffused with information technology for decades, but what makes the fourth industrial revolution a true revolution is the emphasis on increasing connectivity between industrial assets and facilities. Many manufacturers are still hesitant to put all of their data on the cloud, preferring to keep it siloed for cybersecurity or other reasons.

That’s all well and good, but if you’re looking to start a smart factory initiative, you at least need to know whether and to what extent your product and production data is accessible. To that end, the most important questions to answer are:

  • How is the relevant data for your application stored: on-premise, in the cloud, or a hybrid?
    • Most manufacturers take a hybrid approach, storing data in the cloud for enterprise accessibility as well as maintaining local backups
  • How can a third-party integrator or IT supplier access your data?
    • Data can be uploaded directly to third-party integrators and suppliers via the cloud, ingested by those third parties via API, or (if necessary) transferred by shipping one or more hard drives
  • Is your process controlled by a manufacturing execution system (MES)?
    • Leading MES suppliers include Aegis, Lighthouse, Red Viking, and Syspro

If data is the lifeblood of Industry 4.0, then connectivity is the circulatory system. Performing a self-diagnosis to identify any blockages or (even worse) hemorrhages can significantly increase your odds of a healthy rollout in your next smart factory initiative.

Industry 4.0 Cybersecurity Checklist

No preparations for the fourth industrial revolution would be complete without devoting some consideration to cybersecurity. The manufacturing sector remains one of the most popular targets for cyberattacks, with nearly half of UK manufacturers reporting that they had suffered a cyberattack in a 2018 survey. Separately, a 2019 Capgemini survey found that 20% of manufacturers had experienced a data breach in the last 12 months.

Statistics like these can be enough to make any smart factory initiative a non-starter amongst more nervous manufacturers. However, being able to answer a few key questions can go a long way toward guaranteeing the safety of your company’s data.

  • How is your company’s data secured?
    • At the network level, do you connect to customers/suppliers via VPN?
    • At the application level, do you employ two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption?
  • Is your company complaint with ISO/IES 2700-series standards?
    • These include ISO/IEC 27001: 2013, and ISO/IEC 27002:2013, as well as SOC 2 and GDPR
    • Are your suppliers required to be similarly compliant?
Globe in hand

The Point of Industry 4.0

If you can answer all of these questions, congratulations: you’re well-prepared to begin your first smart factory initiative. However, these only represent the very first steps down the long road to Industry 4.0. Figuring out which applications to prioritize in your digital transformation or how quickly to move requires deep reflection and engagement across your entire organization.

If you’re ready to take those next steps, let us know how we can help

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