How Manufacturers can reach Industry 4.0 with digital transformation initiatives

February 07, 2024 Stefan Nava 3 min

Industry 4.0 initiatives are widely recognized as crucial for business success in the coming years, with 91% of manufacturers agreeing on their importance in this recent study commissioned by Windstream Enterprise. Which technologies are being prioritized to achieve digital transformation and how are manufacturers preventing barriers to adoption?

A year ago, even leading manufacturers might have been unfamiliar with newer technologies and capabilities like 3D printing, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, digital twins or predictive maintenance powered by artificial intelligence. Humans are increasing their reliance on emerging technologies such as collaborative robots (also called cobots) as their coworkers, functioning as an extra set of hands in the workplace. Today, the technologies available can make any manufacturer feel like a kid in the candy store—endless, and at times overwhelming. Their ability to improve manufacturing processes, supply chain management and overall business operations are all happening at record speed. It’s exciting, no doubt, but are manufacturers keeping up with the pace with all this change?

We conducted a survey to find out.

And we uncovered good news: Manufacturers are embracing technology investments, with 71% noting their companies are at least in the proof-of-concept phase. In fact, more than three out of five companies have adopted these six technology services or solutions:

  • Telecommunications (e.g., VoIP)
  • Cybersecurity technology
  • Data/advanced business analytics
  • Network solutions
  • On-premises infrastructure
  • Cloud migration

These investments are resulting in game changing benefits, including improved network connectivity, significant cost savings and essential cyber-risk mitigation. The latter being of upmost importance, seeing that almost all companies (91%) surveyed have experienced cyber incidents and with many witnessing an increase in these types of occurrences compared to two years ago.

It’s not all good news.

The survey also uncovered substantial barriers to transformation. Across 11 digital acceleration initiatives, manufacturing executives believe that there are four challenges that are most likely to be barriers:

  1. Connectivity issues
  2. Lack of global cloud infrastructure
  3. Too many applications to manage
  4. Workforce spread across remote, hybrid and onsite

Many of these barriers overlap—for example, a primary barrier to digital transformation can be characterized by the ability to effectively connect and manage a complex technology ecosystem. The dream case scenario for achieving Industry 4.0 initiatives, the Fourth Industrial Revolution in manufacturing, involves for a streamlined approach, desiring a “single pane of glass” view. However, the reality is that businesses often require a variety of applications and systems to operate. The management of those applications and systems can become very chaotic overtime, cutting down on operational efficiency and business savings.

Our customers have overcome these barriers successfully and quickly by ensuring their ecosystem is well managed at all times. This includes maintaining security, connectivity and optimization across all applications and systems, allowing for a more seamless and efficient digital transformation journey.

Weighing the burden of cost, security and IT requirements.

Striking the right balance is crucial to solving for blockades around Industry 4.0 transformation. When evaluating IT investments, manufacturers should take the time to consider TCO and how specific elements may drastically improve areas like uptime, security, productivity and resource allocation.

When surveying respondents, the following five factors ranked of greatest importance:

When evaluating everything this industry’s sophisticated day and age, one conclusion is very clear: While manufacturers recognize the critical nature of technology to achieving digital transformation, they would prefer to focus their resources on what they do best rather than getting entangled in IT complexities.

For this reason, manufacturers are beginning to see the benefits of building a relationship with a trusted managed services partner to help manage or comanage this complex IT ecosystem for them. Our findings showed clear evidence that manufacturers benefit from a single point of expertise and support.

Whether it’s to safeguard against cyberthreats, navigating an intricate IT infrastructure or even accounting for the rising shortages for IT talent, manufacturers must find ways to move fast in order to accelerate their effective deployment of new technologies. Embracing external expertise and capacity allows these businesses to gain an edge in navigating these challenges and embracing incredible opportunities with confidence, speed and agility.

To access the full report, click here. To start exploring how a managed services provider can guide you through a successful Industry 4.0 digital transformation, visit our website here.

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Key Takeaway
The urgency with which manufacturer’s approach their digital transformation has increased dramatically, leading manufacturers to prioritize partnerships with managed IT services providers and increase budgets for digital initiatives.

Calculating and lowering the true cost of ownership in manufacturing