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Smart Factory The Dos and Don'ts on the Way to Industry 4.0

Author / Editor: Mark Reddehase / MA Alexander Stark

The following recommendation outlines the "Dos" and "Don'ts" of an Industry 4.0 implementation in a company. These tips provide managers with a guideline to supports them in taking the right approach.

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How can Industry 4.0 be used successfully in a company?
How can Industry 4.0 be used successfully in a company?
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Lean is widespread among production companies, and a certain level of Lean has been reached in the meantime. Through the efforts of Industry 4.0, the possibility of boosting Lean opens up a new era, while waste reduction reaches a previously unattainable level.

At a Glance

  • The introduction of Industry 4.0 must be outlined and supported by top management.
  • "Lean" processes are a prerequisite for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0.
  • Employees must be at the heart of all activities and be informed at an early stage in order to increase acceptance.
  • Industry 4.0 and its benefits must be clearly defined in the company.



  • The commitment of top management is indispensable:

Before a company starts with any preparation or other activities, top management must decide whether it really wants to introduce Industry 4.0. This strategic decision is resource and time-consuming and requires a lot of patience and support. It entails consequences for deviations. Management must be fully behind the decision. The implementation of Industry 4.0 requires high prioritization in the companies and is the responsibility of top management.

  • Definition of Industry 4.0:

In the preparation for Industry 4.0, it is necessary to define the term in the company itself, since it is an extremely broad field and Industry 4.0 is often understood in different ways. Every company must define the context in which it wants to use Industry 4.0. This helps to clarify what it stands for in a company and what is understood by it. This clarifies the term and avoids any misunderstandings.

  • Clear vision and goals:

A clear vision is essential to ensure that implementation follows a clear direction and provides guidance. The definition allows the company to determine what its purpose is, how the change will benefit the company and what it is intended to achieve. This must be implemented company-wide and affects all areas and departments, including finance and sales. This creates a holistic view and all participants understand in which direction they have to move.

  • Combination of Lean and Industry 4.0:

Industry 4.0 must be implemented together with Lean. This combines the two approaches and they should never be considered separately. This approach prevents Industry 4.0 from becoming a pure "expert topic". Lean must be at the forefront. This means that avoiding waste and improving processes should be high on the agenda. An example that combines both is Kanban. It can be started with normal cards and then digitalized via e-Kanban.

  • Need to have a high Lean level:

It is important to have achieved a high lean level in the company before the introduction of Industry 4.0, because structures and mindsets are already lean. As a result, the chance of success is higher, because the organization is stable and ready for Industry 4.0 projects.

  • Training and qualification:

Employees, managers and lean managers must be adequately prepared for Industry 4.0 and the resulting change. Instead of training in a separate room, it should be done during production and in practice. This can be complemented by visits to companies (best practices) that have already implemented Industry 4.0 technologies, or by visits from experts. Through "networking” efforts like these new insights and ideas can be gained. In addition, it is helpful if employees have a certain affinity for IT.

Execution and Attendance

  • Employee involvement:

The involvement of the employees is crucial for the success of Industry 4.0, because in a transformation process the employees must be consistently "taken along”. The human being must remain at the center of all Industry 4.0 activities and supported by technologies.

  • Communications:

Special attention must be paid to communication, because during the change process employees develop concerns. A clear communication concept is important to explain the purpose of Industry 4.0. Before and during the implementation of a new application, it must be shown how it is implemented, how employees benefit and why it is necessary. Communications must convey the role that employees should play in the future of the company. This can be illustrated with a "big picture" that shows the role people play in the Smart Factory and thus helps to counteract fears of job loss.

  • "Step-by-step" implementation:

Due to the changes, a step-by-step implementation of Industry 4.0 is recommended. This means setting up pilot projects and areas where all stakeholders can try and learn. Within these learning environments mistakes can be made and learned from. This is followed by a structured implementation process across the company.

Organization and Structure

  • Free capacities:

In order to cope with the change, it is advisable to provide additional capacities. This can be either an internal Industry 4.0 representative or an external consultant. Both must be closely combined with Lean.


Random Digitalization

It is not recommended to implement Industry 4.0 or software just because it is either the latest trend or because all other companies in the industry do so. The implementation should result in advantages for the company and its employees. This means that there must be no indiscriminate digitalization. The decision to launch Industry 4.0 or applications of this kind must not be taken lightly because it requires the appropriate resources and thus the full commitment of top management.

Focus Restricted on Methods and Software

Since Industry 4.0 is a very technical topic, the focus is often on methods, software and applications. The necessary actions on part of employees and possible process improvements are quickly forgotten. This error must be avoided at all costs. Both the employees and the processes in the company are critical factors and essential for the success of the project.

* Mark Reddehase is Consultant Lean & Industry 4.0 at ZF Friedrichshafen AG in 32351 Stemwede, Germany: (0 54 74) 60 64-04, mark.reddehase@zf.com

This article was first published by MaschinenMarkt.

Original: Mark Reddehase/ Translation: Alexander Stark

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