This week we joined some of the world’s industrial automation heavyweights, including ABB, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric and Mitsubishi Electric, at the Industry 4.0 summit and exhibition in Manchester. The aim? To understand more about the much-hailed fourth industrial revolution and to what extent industrial marketers should have it on their radars. Here, Zoë Wilkins, account director, shares a quick summary of her findings.
Key finding #1: yes, it IS your problem
Ok, it’s not a “problem.” It’s a new way of doing business. But if you think Industry 4.0 is the preserve of your operations and / or IT department, think again. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways was the fact that it’s as much a cultural project as an operational one. Yes, digitalisation can transform the way your business manufactures things, but for it to succeed, employees have to be on board.
This is no small challenge. Understandably, an invasion of robots, big data (“will that mean Big Brother?”) and remote, automated troubleshooting can trigger fear about dehumanisation of the workplace, job losses and more. If your company is adopting aspects of Industry 4.0, even if only on a small scale or gradually (as most do), there will be a significant internal marketing job to do, to reassure colleagues, help them see the benefits of increased automation and ensure buy-in to make the changes as smooth as possible.
Key finding #2: it helps deliver your brand promise
Almost all of BDB’s clients manufacture physical things – from steel and dielectric fluids through chemicals and lab equipment to packaging materials and food ingredients. Without exception, the services associated with those products have become a differentiator and vital selling points. Industry 4.0 helps with that. By making its factories more efficient, more consistent, more responsive – smarter, in short – an organisation can improve quality, accelerate innovation, shorten lead times, provide customised solutions, add more value. It’s not just about making your own production more efficient, it’s about unleashing tangible customer benefits that set you apart from your competitors. That can boost both market share and profitability. Industry 4.0 presents a fantastic opportunity for marketers to deliver brand promises and raise the bar even further.
Key finding #3: it will happen to you. (Somehow, some time)
Some countries, notably Germany (where Industry 4.0 was born), and certain industries, particularly automotive, were the first movers, but this is a model that will, it’s generally agreed, become the norm. It’s no surprise that interest in China is high. Manufacturing success is no longer taken for granted there: improving productivity is a real priority. And although fundamental change in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals is tough and slow, the benefits of Industry 4.0 are so convincing that, in time, they too will adopt the model. Even if it’s not in your own company yet, it might well be within your customers’ or suppliers’ organisations, which will change the way they do business with you.
Want to talk about how to make the most of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in your marcomms? Get in touch.