Industry 4.0 Transformation: 3 Ideas More Important than Budget

- Mar 07, 2019-

“Thinking that 2030 or 2050 is far in the future and doing nothing is the biggest risk”

When Akio Toyoda speaks, the world of manufacturing pauses to listen. An exemplary figure, a true visionary, and a worthy successor to a line of superbly successful innovators, Toyoda defines the term thought leader.

What makes him special? Most importantly, what insights could manufacturers draw from him and apply to their own teams?

From SmarterChains’ perspective it all boils down to three main ideas:

1. Collaboration, instead of adversarial thinking, is everything.

2. Innovation, instead of resistance to change, is everything.

3. Speed-to-insight, instead of paralysis by analysis, is everything.

What makes Akio Toyoda the smartest amongst the smart

According to Toyota’s forward-thinking President, aiming to satisfy existing strategic objectives is not nearly enough in today’s change-driven context. Instead, companies of all sizes ought to constantly challenge themselves, push for more innovation, and invest in future technologies in order to achieve maximum growth over the upcoming years.

This is why Toyota aims to transform from an automobile company to a mobility company, with endless expansion pathways. Bold? Certainly. What you may not know, however, is that when Toyota began around 80 years ago, it started as a loom weaving company, before it changed direction and started building cars under Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio’s grandfather.

Reinventing themselves as something greater, challenging conventional wisdom on what’s possible, and being future-centric seems to run in the Toyoda family. This is precisely why the Japanese multinational titan has secured its dominant industry status.

How to prioritize like a manufacturing titan

Corporate intelligence becomes corporate wisdom when insights gleaned from industry heavyweights turn into concrete action steps, adapted to your unique business context. In SmarterChains’ opinion, the following list includes the key ideas manufacturing leaders ought to extract from Toyota’s example, in order to future-proof their companies, and turn themselves into the thought-leaders of tomorrow:

1. Collaboration. Revealed at CES® 2018, Toyota’s new e-Palette Alliance makes one thing abundantly clear: If even one of the world’s largest automotive leaders can’t go at it alone these days, no one should. With launch partners that include Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber, this initiative clearly illustrates how Toyota doesn’t move with an adversarial stance but favors an ecosystem approach.

2. Innovation. Back in 2017, Toyota promised that it will be offering electric versions of every model of its vehicle fleet by 2025. That’s not all, however. The company has also invested in alternative energy sources, interconnected traffic & safety systems, as well as human assisting robots, doing its absolute best to tap into as many leading-edge concepts as possible.

3. Speed. Specifically, faster and more agile decision-making is everything. This is why Toyoda has started reinventing one of the world’s largest companies into smaller, self-contained units, fully empowered to make decisions and act all by themselves.

Akio Toyoda, pioneer and manufacturing thought leader, has spoken and acted according to his vision. But has the manufacturing world really taken his message to heart?

The Dark Side of Manufacturing

As it stands, despite the best efforts of true visionaries like Toyoda, a guarded and secluded mindset remains the industry’s driving force, with true knowledge and expertise still lying siloed within organizations.

There is no sector-wide benchmarking database, for example, to enable benchmarking that goes deeper than the scorecard system. There is no way to prioritize technology investments optimally, as innovation has grown to be decentralized, with new solutions emerging day by day. In fact, the industry has grown so fragmented, that actors often use different vocabulary and terminology to describe the exact same technologies.

To tackle these challenges, plant leaders usually turn to consulting firms; to the consultancy heavyweights, if they can afford it, or to smaller, cost-effective boutique consulting firms. As knowledgeable as these firms may be, their method has three significant disadvantages:

First, it lacks the collaborative, ecosystem-wide view. Consulting firms leverage their teams’ personal knowledge and networks to offer their services, missing innovative solutions and opportunities spread around the ecosystem, due to their sheer volume.

Second, even if there was a consulting firm, that could claim knowledge of the global manufacturing ecosystem and mean it, its method would still lack agility. Plant assessments, technology suggestions, roadmap design; such processes take a full month at best, draining productivity, and resources.

Third, the conventional approach’s greatest disadvantage: Despite being very resource intensive, the above processes usually just validate existing knowledge, instead of offering new insights.

The SmarterChains’ Approach: Empowering Plant Leaders to Drive Change

SmarterChains’ vision is to break the siloes of the manufacturing world and connect all industry actors in a mutually prosperous ecosystem, where knowledge is shared efficiently, and value-creation is accelerated for all.

To succeed in this monumental challenge, the first step is to empower factory leaders around the world with the knowledge and tools they need to drive real change across their plants and transform internal teams without external help.

This is why SmarterChains’ AI-driven software platform was created; it all starts with the company’s proprietary remote self-assessment tool that forward-thinking leaders use to assess their plant’s capabilities, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement.

This allows the plant leadership to gain valuable business insights without anyone having to walk into the factory.

The process continues with an AI-optimized roadmap design tool, which suggests the most appropriate technology solutions out of a curated list of more than 1100 technology vendors, empowering the factory’s internal teams to map out their future steps without external help.

The whole process takes only a few hours, effectively cutting down digital transformation resource-consumption to a fraction of its current state.

To schedule a remote plant assessment, contact a SmarterChains representative directly.