The One Question Every Business Leader Must Ask About Industry 4.0

I like to find out about new things. At 56 I still work in an interesting company, two in fact, and still find technology fascinating.  I love looking forward and assessing innovation, getting under the skin of the next ‘big thing.’  After university I went to work in an innovative telecoms company called Mitel.  It spent a fortune implementing a forward looking quality improvement program by Crosby (not Bing but Phillip). The program was themed “Quality is Free.” It radically changed their entire business and I loved it. It became clear that looking forward to what’s coming, understanding it and being able to use that knowledge is a major element of success in my career. It’s given me an edge in roles within manufacturing, sales and still works well for me in marketing. 

A perspective on Industry 4.0

There are several views of Industry 4.0.  All say that change is on the way, some say the roots of change have been with us for a number of years and that business is already digitising their value chains both externally with suppliers, partners and customers and internally by freeing up information flow between functions. Others are looking at the disruptive impact that the Internet of Things might enable, or is it the mass customising of product delivered by Additive Manufacturing.

I’m coming to the conclusion that what you think about Industry 4.0 depends on what industry you are in and what are the best ways to take another step forward, driving even greater efficiencies by using more, and being better at exploiting, data wherever it is.

The one question

Will my business still be as profitable doing what I do now in five years’ time?

There you have it. The one question you need to answer to drive success.

Now it’s not the question that’s so important, as crystal balls only work when you have all the right information up front. It’s more about how often you ask it, what your terms of reference are and what you know about the environment that you do business in.

I’m not going to start listing a whole load of questions as that would defeat the object of the blog.  If you have read this far then you probably already have a desire to start asking questions yourself.  I would only respectfully suggest that you think forward, look to where you source your information to make your decisions now, factor in a little chaos (to account for the use of disruptive technology that could re-create your business model), check out some new sources of information and network with people and businesses that will help you for free.

Here’s the rub. You are likely going to have to do something that you haven’t done before and maybe something that would never occur to you to do. That’s not possible dimwit I sense you thinking, but trust me it is and here is how.

Before you kick off with the ‘I didn’t get where I am today’ speech, you don’t need to lose anything that you bring to the party that experience has taught you. Example: In the current climate digital marketing is the flavour and new phrases like snail mail have replaced direct mail, but do you know what, snail mail still works and if the new generation has one flaw in its plan it’s writing off the old school. 

You will have to bite one bullet though and connect with the younger generation to learn how they see the world, as they are the future.  It’s an enlightening experience. This is your key to learning about the sources of information that you are currently neglecting.  Those people that constantly have their face buried in a mobile phone aren’t just watching music videos. They are communicating, watching and generating information, viewing news content and sharing the best bits not just with their friends but with their followers in the business community.

The online community has made it very difficult for new developments to remain hidden.  Somebody knows, someone finds out and posts and anyone can find and share. Change can happen very quickly.  In fact there is almost a panic trying to launch a new product before a new idea sinks it with a better product manufactured and sold in a more effective way. Disruptive? You bet.

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