Several months ago, a member of the Manufacturing Leadership Council from the automotive sector approached the MLC team with a proposition: What if they could host an IoT-themed workshop at their headquarters to discuss manufacturing digitization – and enlist the MLC to invite non-competitors to attend? The result was a two-day workshop at the company’s  headquarters, attended by several other discrete manufacturers as well as one major process manufacturing company. Here were the key discussion takeaways from the meeting:

No matter the company or the end product, there is commonality  among challenges for M4.0 adoption. At the end of the workshop, the discrete manufacturers in attendance  voiced that they were surprised they had so much in common with the process manufacturing company.  The discrete manufacturers felt there could be even more to learn from process manufacturers.

Everyone is talking about a Chief Digital Officer – whether they’ve hired one or not. In adding a CDO to their executive team, the desire is for that person to be an enabler for M4.0, not a cop to police what should and shouldn’t be done. Two of the companies at the meeting have CDOs, while the other companies in attendance do not at this time (but some are exploring). One challenge/question that came up: How do you write a job description for a CDO?

Most companies have taken a project-based approach to starting their M4.0 journey and are now pushing to move past projects to an overall holistic shift for their company. However, the speed for moving to that holistic approach is strongly dependent on leadership. It was also mentioned that while much of the fear around automation and potential headcount loss has been focused on the factory floor, it’s really off-the-floor functions that could and will be impacted just as significantly (finance, HR, etc.).

It’s all about the data, not the tools to get it. While companies may or may not wish to have universal systems for all their facilities/operations, the end goal is tracking and analyzing the best possible data and making it transparent and accessible across the organization. However, the tools that companies use to get that data do not necessarily have to be the same, since different solutions work better for different businesses.

Communicating value to leadership is critical – and an enormous struggle. The companies that are doing best have leadership with a pull mentality for M4.0 adoption. Those that need to be pushed are seeing much slower moves toward change. Many struggle to have executive leadership see beyond just short-term gains and to instead look at the benefits of digitization for the long term, especially when there is no clear path for getting there.

As one attendee said: “This is the industry’s Kodak moment.” At some point, you have to decide to stop making film. The ones that keep true to their current path without moving toward digital change are bound to lose in the long run.