top of page

Spare My Child as I cautiously embrace Industry 4.0

Labour Shortages are prompting many businesses to "Jump into Solutions" using automation as a replacement.

Now Industry 4.0 is no longer a novel concept to business. Much has been written about Industry 4.0 and this has triggered Automation Technologies to evolve regularly in an attempt to transform how facilities operate day-to-day.

" For many, Industry 4.0 is no longer a "Want" but has now become a "Must", but wait before you embrace Industry 4.0 you need to pause, reflect, strategize before you implement. "

Business have to first understand their own business, their processes and plan what needs to be changed before automating and transforming.

When facing pressures to satisfy customers it truly is a challenge to pause and reflect, but although you may not have the time to do it, you also cannot afford not to do it if you want a successful outcome.

PAUSE !! I still am committed that the best methodology to document, observe, reflect and strategize your business processes is participating in a facilitated Enterprise Value Stream Workshop. Indeed many practitioners gyrate to using Value Stream Mapping which is good, but it only identifies "Waste" through the lens of inventory. Enterprise Value Stream Mapping takes you to the next level by analyzing your information flow in a granular manner seeking just how "Complete & Accurate" are your information flows. But ultimately the map allows you to look at your business in a holistic manner, just don't lie to yourself during the mapping exercise it is what it is and document accordingly.

REFLECT ... The most critical times within your business is the "First Hour & Last Hour" this is indicative of how quickly the process becomes effective and how easy is it to retire at the end of the day. Variability is the cancer of any process and we need stability of Process before we can even consider any form of automation.

"Not for My Child ..."

When I go to the Gemba and observe Process always in the back of mind is the question "Would I want my child to perform this function or even worse make it into a career?" If the answer is NO, then that process becomes a potential viable candidate for automation. For example look at Swiss Castle that is now employing "Flippy" an automated kitchen assistant which now allows kitchen technicians to perform other tasks more tailored to creating that positive customer experience.

Before your enthusiasm creates an impulse to Automate you again need to pause, look deep at the process and then Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify and then ponder automation. Simplification does not have to be an advanced science, it can consist of 1) Simple Workplace Organization (remember robots are not good at searching) 2) Proper Material conveyance and replenishment (develop a cadence) and 3) a great opportunity to translate "tribal knowledge" into a quantifiable repeatable operation.

" I Fear a Recession, a downturn in business and losing the employees I currently have ..."

All are valid concerns so let us de-myth each concern ...

Recession and a downturn in business are bundled together. Business is cyclable and only those with the vision, tenacity and commitment to see through to next cycle will ultimately be the industry winners. When times are slower it provides more time to implement automation, recover from mistakes and ultimately achieve stability within the process. Once stability has been accomplished in your new process it is fairly easy to speed it up.

Employees are yours to lose. No doubt or disagreement that the advent of automation will change jobs and peoples lives. It becomes important on how you manage the Culture Speed of adoption within your organization. Encourage your employees to learn new skills and capabilities so they can continue to that valuable resource to your organization. As you invest in your automation make sure you also are investing in your people, they and you deserve it.

Collaboration is Critical ... as you look to embrace automation you will need to partner with an automation partner. Just don't jump into bed with the first opportunity, be just as diligent with selecting a collaboration partner like you would do in selecting a new employee or life partner. Ultimately their influence and impact could transform your business with an ever lasting impact. Collaboration is a successful strategy for organizations to become nimble and nimble companies unlock new value for themselves and customers.

So in Summary as you embrace Industry 4.0 do the following,

  • REFLECT .. do an Enterprise Value Stream Workshop


  • Look at your operations to Simplify, Obsolete or Automate as if your child is doing it.

  • Be Strategic ... build your Vision and Strategy in spite of storm clouds on the horizon

  • Respect Your People, skills will need to be shifted for Industry 4.0

  • Cautiously select a Collaboration provider.

The embrace of Industry 4.0 should be an evolution with an approach to embracing Innovation while integrating Legacy Systems with Automation to enhance being nimble and competitive.


We do more than just blog. We're active Lean practitioners who would love to help you achieve your productivity goals.

bottom of page