Predictive maintenance is an early exemplar for connected manufacturing, but bigger wins are in the pipeline from Industry 4.0. Pioneering manufacturers such as Kaeser Kompressoren and Lockheed Martin have already connected physical products to the industrial internet of things (IIoT), creating predictive maintenance systems and improved product reliability. Customers have even been offered products “as a service.”

Other asset-intensive organizations in mining, power and utilities, oil and gas, and chemical industries have followed suit to improve such areas as equipment reliability. A Deloitte survey in 2018 revealed that “top oil and gas sector executives thought asset performance management program (APM) data was more likely to provide business value than other fields of smart manufacturing.”

However, at the beginning of this year, the professional services firm asked those same leaders how digital technologies could best be used. They subsequently ranked APM lower than cost reduction in maintenance and operations, as well as lower than improvements in safety.

The report stated: “Merely implementing APM software and digitizing existing processes [are] not likely to improve core operations and obtain the financial results that executives desire (and investors demand).”

Instead, the survey found the untapped, transformative aspect of digital was deemed to be connecting systems across the business: from enterprise resource planning (ERP), safety and quality, to inventory management. The continued struggle of manufacturers to break down technology silos and to access Industry 4.0 is a theme Wolfgang Lucny, DXC Technology’s manufacturing industry executive for the North & Central Europe region, raises.

“Many companies have not done their digital groundwork before starting Industry 4.0 projects,” Lucny observes. “They need to fix basics such as connectivity: how to connect machines on the factory floor that are different generations — legacy, middle-aged or new.”

The maturation of Industry 4.0 will also include connecting silos on the factory floor to the business, asserts Lucny: “Digital product and customer experience without any back end into production systems — it doesn’t work.”

Indeed, DXC has publicly announced its intended acquisition of customer-experience specialist Luxoft in an effort to enhance its integration capabilities between factory floor, business and customer experience, Lucny points out. In the meantime, DXC will continue to help clients scale their connected manufacturing projects by ensuring that the proposition is defined in terms of business value.

“Too many [Industry 4.0] pilots are driven bottom-up by geeks trying out the latest and greatest technologies,” says Lucny. “They may work at the technical proof-of-concept stage, but don’t prove the business value.”

Business value inevitably lies in increased revenues, productivity or better customer experience. But as Lucny points out, it also has to be defined by each manufacturer in terms of its user stories: “It’s the problems they think they can solve and how they can make gains — or mitigate pain. This is what Industry 4.0 can really deliver.”