Article Source: IMechE

“What we’re seeing in industry across the board is a real growth of Industry 4.0,” says Rockwell Automation’s Mike Loughran.

As an executive in a global organisation operating in 80 countries, whose stated aim is to make the world a more productive and sustainable place through industrial automation, he’s well positioned to comment.

But when it comes to managing change, Loughran says, “the temptation is to think that the fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4) is a purely technological phenomenon. But it’s a very human thing that’s happening too. If you want to get the best out of the IR4 digital journey, you need to get the best out of your people, rather than just throwing in new levels of digitalisation.”

Connecting the parts

Change management is critical to this digital journey because, as Loughran says, “Industry 4.0 has highlighted that we need to start to look differently at how we do things. In the past, manufacturers were typically operating in isolated departments. Things would be made and they’d be sent somewhere else. The manufacturing division wouldn’t have been involved in cost of manufacture, logistics or applications.” But it’s different today, with the crux of IR4 being connectivity.

“It’s about connecting different parts of a company to leverage the data being generated in order to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability. To implement IR4 there needs to be a lot of change management.”

Loughran cites the example of a customer end-user that mass-produces highly technical products. “They decided to investigate how their digital journey could get products out quicker, with fewer rejects and increased quality rate. They asked us how to do that.

“Now, Rockwell went on its own digital journey five years ago and what came out of that was a manufacturing assessment plan, or MAP.”

The MAP sets out the criteria that Rockwell discusses with the end user, “which is where change management really comes in. Going back in time, we’d have chatted with the engineers and the manufacturing base separately to come up with a great technical solution and that would have been the end of that. Today, we talk to every stakeholder in the company.

“So we talk to finance, maintenance, logistics, IT and anybody else having an interest in what we were doing. That’s the only way to get everybody’s input, and how you start to put together a truly connected manufacturing base.”

To this end, Rockwell Automation has set up a customer centre in Karlsruhe, Germany. It acts as a nerve centre, where key players meet to reach an understanding of how far their use of existing technologies takes them on their digital journey. One of the main pillars of IR4 is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), “and we’ve used the centre as a digitalisation clinic – looking at what has worked and what hasn’t, or what is blocking an IIoT project”.

Creating a shared vision

The problem with seeking a harmonised solution is that humans are resistant to change. “But a key part of the MAP is to highlight people’s resistances. Typically, these are based on the individual’s perception of their job function and the impact change will have on it.

“A classic example of this in IR4 is IT not being involved on the manufacturing level. IT have got their networks in the carpeted environment, but don’t see how that applies to manufacturing.” Meanwhile, in manufacturing there is the assumption that engineers don’t know how manufacturing works. “It’s not until you get these people together to share how they play a role in creating a robust infrastructure for manufacturing that you can create a vision of how to work together.”

So it’s a case of everyone singing off the same hymn sheet? “It is. But with IR4 it’s more a case of singing from the same very big and complex hymn book,” says Loughran.

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