By Michael Loggins, award-winning executive IT leader

Industry 4.0 has vast potential to transform what factories can do. Manufacturing can be faster, more data-driven, more responsive to the needs of workers and customers, and more powered by innovations such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, digital supply chains, and blockchain. While the possibilities of Industry 4.0 are extraordinary—and realizing them is seemingly just within our reach—there are still obstacles to overcome before we can feel truly comfortable making them a reality.

Where I see the biggest dissonance today is in how companies are allowing both IT and the manufacturing groups to exist inside their organizations. Traditionally, the value of IT in the manufacturing industry has been to provide the factory floor with the resources they need, and then to stay out of the way. And in the past, that was really the best approach, because the controls that IT needs—particularly for security—typically aren’t conducive to maintaining an efficient and optimized factory environment.

Industry 4.0 Requires New Ways of Working Together

In the world of Industry 4.0, the separation between IT and the factory floor pretty much disappears. Today, it’s almost mandatory that IT sits in the middle of the factory and is seen as a valuable partner and an essential business function. But, in many organizations, the traditional dissonance between IT and the factory floor is still there; leading to conflicts in which the health and security of the business are jeopardized due to misalignment. Whether that’s the security of the entire organization, or the efficiency and efficacy of the operational technology on the factory floor, neither scenario is acceptable as they’re both preventable.

What’s needed now is a growing understanding on both sides, so the divisions and dissonance are eliminated, and cooperation and teamwork are celebrated. IT needs to figure out how to reduce its need to control everything, so that teams can protect what needs to be protected while supporting the operational technology (OT) environment in ways that don’t negatively impact productivity, efficiency, and automation on the factory floor.

At the same time, the factory needs to understand that they are not technologists and don’t have a wide enough scope to view the entire environment in order to protect OT. This means they’ll need to be able to bend a little to let IT be part of their conversations. If the IT team is somehow iced out, the factory may run just fine, but business operations are substantially more vulnerable to a major disruption due to a cybersecurity attack. Nobody wants that to happen. So both sides will need to drop tradition and ego to create a win-win situation for the organization.

How IT Can Support the Changes Needed for Industry 4.0

Let’s look at some ways IT can do our part.

Earn our seat at the table. Firstly, if we can’t keep the printers and computers on the factory floor running, there’s no way we’re going to be invited in to even talk about securing the environment. So there is a minimum “pay to play” mindset of operational excellence that has to be put in place to even get a seat at the table.

At the table, the IT team must be prepared. We can’t go in talking about the factory floor in the same language and terms that we would talk about a traditional office environment. It’s a different world, and if IT doesn’t understand that world–if we don’t take the time to live in that world–then how can we possibly go about protecting it? 

That means spending time on the factory floor; talking to factory staff and management to get deep in the weeds to understand the methodology they are using for quality, efficiency, and everything in between. You have to make sure you figure out how to maintain it before you can figure out how to protect it.

Practice patience. The other key mindset for IT is patience. Once you get into the operational side of things, you’ll be overwhelmed by how much there is to learn, and by the amount of technology and processes you’ll need to protect. If you try to address everything at the same time, you’ll fail. Worse, you will burn bridges, reinforce the dissonance and, eventually, you’ll get removed from the table.

So, for us in IT, it’s about starting small, making sure your OT colleagues understand that you have their environment in mind, and that you’re not going to inadvertently shut down the factory. Ultimately, IT needs to be viewed as a true business partner protecting the factory from all kinds of vulnerabilities, while also creating the assurance that OT won’t be held back. It’s about doing the work in a way that is sustainable and secure.

Building Empathy to Realize Industry 4.0

Without people and process, the new technologies of Industry 4.0 are never going to be fully maximized. In fact, I’ve seen organizations put in amazing technology, but without paying enough attention to how it impacted the factory floor; the return on the investment was pretty much zero. CISOs need to demonstrate empathy and a true understanding of the challenges of keeping the factory working every day. This includes knowing how failures of equipment and machinery can be disastrous for the OT team.

It helps to become friends, or at least tight colleagues, with factory management, floor supervisors, and machinists. Get to really know those people who are your customers. As with any relationship, there needs to be a strong commitment from both IT and the factory floor to resolve issues, but I think it’s our responsibility in IT to go a little further than halfway in order to train our people, and transform our mindsets.

We have to make sure our IT staff are equipped to work with the OT side of the company. We have to spend time on the factory floor and engage with the philosophy and values and mindset of the people there. Sometimes working on the factory line gives you the right amount of empathy to understand what’s going on.

Collaboration Enables Innovation for Industry 4.0

If you can get your teams working together, the possibilities are tremendous. The speed of delivery should increase and more importantly, you’ll have alignment between your IT and engineering groups, creating space for real innovation to happen. Bot IT and OT are composed of problem solvers that are in their fields because they know how to make things better: they just have different sets of tools.

By taking people who have similar drives, backgrounds and passions for fixing problems and putting them in a room, you’ll achieve amazing levels of innovation and countless creative solutions. And because the work is done together, as a team, the designs are more stable at every stage. They will be easier to implement, easier to manage and operate, easier to secure, making adoption measurably faster.

By removing the dissonance, you can totally change how you’re able to deliver value both at the factory floor and to your customers. Industry 4.0 becomes more than just an exciting possibility; it becomes the new reality.

Read more on Industry 4.0 in this article

About Michael Loggins:

SRT author, Michael Loggins is an award-winning executive IT leader focused in strategic business alignment, customer success and standardizing global IT operations.

IT Leadership, Manufacturing Industry

An alarm sounds on the factory floor: a critical piece of equipment has malfunctioned. An engineer approaches the machine, scans its QR code, and immediately accesses visual step-by-step instructions for fixing the issue created by the people who work with the same machines every day.

This is SwipeGuide, a B2B cloud-based SaaS platform that captures and scales operational knowledge, helping teams in industrial environments to create, improve, and share instructions and standard operating procedures using mobile and wearable devices. The platform is designed to help reduce errors and downtime, improve the quality of products, and help onboard new employees – all powered by the expertise of frontline workers.

SwipeGuide Chief Technology Officer Sue Li has worked in the tech industry for over a decade, with a degree in educational technology and instructional design from Harvard University’s Technology, Innovation, and Education programme for her master’s degree. Li gained experience in visual art and UX design as well as product management and software development before joining SwipeGuide in 2019. Less than a year later, she was promoted from full-stack developer to CTO.

“I learn best through hands-on learning and just by tackling problems,” Li says. “My first year as a CTO involved learning a lot about the security and scalability of the infrastructure, data privacy, and compliance. Part of the learning process was figuring out how to ask the right questions and work with experts to solve very detailed and strategic problems.”

Harnessing the power of data for frontline workers

One of the challenges that Li contends with in her role is the ever-increasing volume of data that the platform produces, including content, feedback, usage, and behavioural data. Li is developing SwipeGuide’s new strategy to figure out how to manage it and how to put the data to work.

“The strategy that we want to go forward with is self-service analytics: how can we empower users on the factory floor so that they don’t need to rely on a data scientist or analyst to get insights? We want to have all of our data in a data warehouse as a single source of truth so that we can analyse and provide those insights to the operators. I think that’s going to be an important step towards having more robust machine learning models as well. It’s going to be very, very powerful.”

SwipeGuide is expanding its services beyond its European customers to the US and China, which presents the challenge of ensuring data privacy and compliance for an increasingly global audience.

Currently clients can access analytics dashboards on the platform that can show entities the adoption of their content, like how many instructions have been created over time by specific teams in different workspaces, and how often they’re viewed.

“We want to be able to provide better insights with those dashboards, and another part of that is embedding that data right into the platform itself: being able to see which guides have been the most popular and are the highest quality. Later on, we will be able to analyse which characteristics the highest-rated guides have, maybe something about the structure of how they are written or the structure of the images or videos. This is where machine learning will come in, to help us make recommendations to improve the quality of instructions over time.”

The human factor in Industry 4.0

Life on the factory floor is changing rapidly with the onset of Industry 4.0, the fourth wave of the industrial revolution powered by data and bolstered by automation. Tools such as SwipeGuide aim to optimise operations by minimising downtime, but the insights needed to create smarter factories must come from human expertise first.

“Our work is all about empowering the frontline worker — the biggest waste is untapped human potential. I think that the problem that we’re trying to solve is all of the silent knowledge that people have: crowd-sourcing that knowledge from all the different operators and frontline workers, and then externalising and capturing that in a standard format that is easy to share,” Li says.

Contrary to popular imagery associated with Industry 4.0 – workers replaced by endless rows of indefatigable robots – Li believes that humans will have an important role to play. “There are very few smart factories out there where there is no human intervention,” Li says, citing an example of a car manufacturer in Japan that has an automated factory for building auto parts after figuring out the step-by-step instructions necessary for robots to execute those tasks.

“With the data processing power that we have now with edge computing and cloud computing, there will be a huge shift over the next 10 to 20 years in what can be automated. But in order to reach that level of automation, we need to be able to build algorithms: some of the questions we’re asking are can we emulate the procedures, can we create an algorithm with the instructions, and how can we hook performance data into operational data?”

Branching out into wearables and augmented reality

Li and the SwipeGuide team are actively exploring other types of emerging technologies that work in harmony with the platform. The company is experimenting with wearable devices that will free up workers’ hands while they repair and service machinery.

SwipeGuide has created an Android app that can be installed on a durable industrial wearable like Realwear, which creates helmets and smart glasses built for factory settings. “We are also looking into compatibility with Google Glass,” Li says. “Wearables allow the operators to be completely hands-free when they’re repairing a machine or doing whatever they need to, which allows us to do more with voice commands.”

For more complex instructions, augmented reality can help workers understand specific gestures and motions that would be hard to describe with photos or text.

“We did a pilot with XM Reality, a remote support calling platform. If a worker gets stuck on a particular instruction, the remote experts can show users what needs to happen with augmented reality. Imagine, a worker has shared a real-time video of a part of a machine that is broken or loose, and they can see a hand on their screen making a motion or drawing a shape. Making the experience interactive can really help in situations where a course of action is very complicated and difficult to describe.”

Fostering innovation through an agile, user-centric approach

The challenges that SwipeGuide is currently facing, like integrating new technologies and developing SwipeGuide’s data strategy and machine learning models, require fostering a culture of innovation within the team. For Li, the best inspiration for new ideas comes from the people who use the platform and the solutions come from her team: “I think our customers really know the most, so it’s important to get insights from the market, the users, and the customers. We do our own usability testing — for example, we created a small competition where we created step-by-step guides for creating origami. It helped us experience the challenges that our customers face while uploading images or making changes to instructions, for example.”

Li believes that an important part of innovation is having an agile mindset, especially when it comes to software development, to measure the effectiveness of a new solution or idea.

“We track events and collect data so that we can measure solutions in relation to specific goals, like increasing visibility or usage,” she says

“If it works we keep it, and if not we create another iteration of that solution and then try again. We work in an industry with huge enterprises that use the waterfall methodology, but I think that takes away from the innovation element of being able to experiment with smaller improvements, collect and learn from the feedback, and develop new and novel ways to solve problems.”

Industry, IT Leadership

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With increasing pressures on pricing, speed, individualization, and sustainability brought on by customers and competitors, already- intricate supply chains & manufacturing processes are becoming more and more complex.

A resilient business needs digitalized manufacturing operations, customer service and supply chains to run with speed and flexibility.

Lean manufacturing (also known as lean production, just-in-time manufacturing and just-in-time production, or JIT) is a production method aimed primarily at reducing times within the production system as well as response times from suppliers and to customers. Central to the concept is the elimination of waste or activities which add no value to the process. And this in turn provides a basis for operational excellence by standardizing processes and creating a culture of continuous improvement by monitoring, proactively maintaining equipment and empowering employees.

Industry 4.0 refers to the digital transformation of industrial processes through Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and cyber-physical systems – smart, autonomous systems that use computer-based algorithms to monitor and control physical things like machinery, robots, and vehicles.  

In this workshop, we shall discuss and showcase use cases where Industry 4.0 meets lean manufacturing – with the aim of increasing operational efficiency!


Sujit Hemachandran – Sr Lead, Industry 4.0 Digital Transformation, SAP Labs
Sujit is a technologist who specializes in understanding and helping customers adopt technologies and applications. He is currently engaged with SAP customers in the discrete and process sector to help them on their Industry 4.0 and industrial IoT journeys. His experience with SAP software includes strategizing and developing various enterprise technologies and platforms, such as mobile, integration, IoT, and cloud communications.

Ben Hughes – Industry 4.0 Hub OT Specialist, SAP Labs
Ben has 18 years of engineering experience in a wide range of industries. His experience includes working with many manufacturers to deploy automation solutions on plant floors, developing automated residential lighting systems, and developing custom control systems for the US Navy and Coast Guard. During his time off, Ben enjoys spending time with family, travelling, and reading, and is a volunteer with his son’s boy scout troop.

Jack LaMaina – Industry 4.0 Hub Specialist, SAP Labs
Jack graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Major in Business Management and a Minor in International Studies. Early in his career at SAP, Jack supported the Mission Control Center before taking on the role of a Solution Advisor for SAP’s Customer Experience Suite of solutions. Jack supports SAP customers by bridging the gap between business and technology, turning complex problems into value creating opportunities for customers by showing the power of SAP software in support of customers’ digital transformation goals.

Matt Ruff – Industry 4.0 Hub Specialist, SAP Labs
Matt graduated with an engineering degree and spent his early career learning the ins and outs of cocoa & chocolate processing. Matt has ?5+ years of consulting experience with SAP’s Manufacturing Portfolio & is a previous owner of SAP’s Model Company for Connected Manufacturing. Currently, Matt is focused on optimizing and integrating business processes and showcasing SAP’s strengths to customers.

Vivekananda Panigrahy – Industry 4.0 Hub Specialist, SAP Labs
Vivek is a full stack developer of SAP Business Technology Platform with 9+ Years of Experience with a strong focus on Design Patterns, Solution Architecture and Problem-Solving Skills to the best of Customer Success. Currently, Vivek supports SAP’s Digital Supply Chain Industry 4.0 Innovation Hub team helping customers throughout their Digital Transformation Journey.

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