Many years ago, early in my understanding of Industry 4.0, I had became frustrated with the maintenance issues that had been affecting the operation.
We had a solid preventive maintenance program in place. But preventive maintenance can have its weak points. For example, you may not be conducting preventive maintenance tasks (PMs) on the right schedule (too frequent, or too infrequent). Or, maybe you have too many PMs, and it’s hard to get to them all prioritized along with other day-to-day maintenance issues. Perhaps you perform PMs on the wrong equipment. There are many potential issues, but hopefully you get the idea here.
For whatever reason, our PM program had been unable to detect some issues that led to equipment breakdowns. I truly believe it was not due to the employees, but it was simply that there was too many variables for our people to handle.
At the time, I thought: I’ll help them!
I had been talking with some vendors about Predictive Maintenance (PdM) for a while, and I was very intrigued. Briefly, PdM allows an operation to predict a potential equipment failure before it occurs. It does this by measuring equipment health through sensors on the machine. For example, vibration sensors are installed on a motor and it’s vibrations are measured versus a standard. This way, software and technology can help an operation find where problems may happen much before a human can detect them.
I thought that PdM was the answer we needed. So I blazed ahead and started a project, buying sensors and working to get them installed.
So how did I fail at Industry 4.0?
I barely consulted with the maintenance staff before I went ahead. After all, I thought, why wouldn’t we want something like this? Because I didn’t bring the affected staff to the table at the early stage of the project, they were in the dark. They didn’t necessarily see the value of the sensors I was installing, or how they would fit into their workload.
The key to digital transformation is not a certain technology, it’s the people that will use it. If the end user doesn’t believe in what they are using, they will likely cause it to fail.
My Industry 4.0 failure was underestimating the opinions and work processes of the employees. Why wouldn’t they want this tool? I thought. I assumed it would be clear to them why we were going down this path. Naively, I believed that I just needed to get this software in place and everything would magically work out. Well, that didn’t happen.
As a result of my naiveite, the staff did not happily embrace my new project into PdM. It took a lot of time and effort to get them to buy in to the concept. Eventually, they did see the value in PdM and take on the idea, but it was a long road to get there.
One of the reasons why we have set up Circle View in the manner it is structured is because of situations like this. Circle View will allow for a transparent view of business goals and how the company plans to meet those goals. This will help to communicate to employees the “why” behind the company’s actions.
I am not telling this story to dissuade you from adopting Industry 4.0 technology at your company. Manufacturing must embrace the present and make moves to secure its future. Industry 4.0 is a critical strategy that will be needed to help companies keep up with changing market conditions and attract talented employees.
But if you do not take the proper path and include stakeholders from the start, you are risking failure. Trust me – this isn’t the only time I’ve seen something like this happen. Get everyone involved and understanding why the organization is pushing forward with Industry 4.0 projects so they don’t fail.