How much do you know about Industry 4.0? That’s the trendy moniker for a brave new world of digital connections that promise a giant leap in organizations ability to coordinate manufacturing, business intelligence and enterprise software to meet demand at lightning speed.
Industry 4.0 replaces the old-school linear supply chain with a digital supply network. This modular, flexible scheme involves digital links among “smart factories” powered by the industrial Internet of Things, big data, and machine learning.
If robots that build cars get an alert about a spike in demand for sedans on the West Coast, they’ll be able to put out the call for additional parts to fill the order. In response, other smart devices load precisely enough trucks to transport those components — trucks dispatched by another system that’s also calculated the exact horsepower needed to move the finished sedans to dealerships.
As industrial devices get smarter, organizations are also radically rethinking the old divisions between information technology and operational technology.
From the shop floor to the heating system to the kitchen, every machine controlled by software and linked into a corporate network is a potential weak spot for communication flaws and security breaches.
And that means IT buyers are finding themselves in places that used to be the domain of facilities, working with networked, AI-driven systems that used to be controlled individually and manually.
As IT takes over OT, smart marketers have an opportunity to become essential players in that vastly expanded domain — provided they understand the challenges their IT customers face as the new masters of OT.
Whether it’s fixing the toaster or adjusting the thermostat, IT pros who’ve spent their careers referring help-desk requests to facilities are finding the smart versions of those devices solidly in their domain, as internet-connected components of the organization.
And when it comes to the industrial Internet of Things, their oversight extends to personnel who are servicing factory-strength machines performing highly specialized, mission-critical tasks. That means veteran information pros need to find a way to guide veteran operational pros in a way that doesn’t create conflict.
Marketers who can get smart — at least at the high level — about the specialized operations involved in their customers’ business can become great sounding boards for sites undergoing this transformation of corporate culture.
Every business that’s installed a smart gadget has already introduced a new, internet-savvy device with an operating system and firmware — often from manufacturers they’re unfamiliar with.
Spyware embedded in smart appliances from exporters like China have already demonstrated the sorts of new attack vectors IoT opens. And when it comes to mission-critical industrial equipment in a supply web, the need to secure integrated smart devices becomes even more acute.
Your understanding of architectures that encompass both IT and OT — for instance, constructing a DMZ that shields both — will give you an in with IT buyers who are searching for reliable solutions to integrating information and operations.
Industry 4.0 holds vast potential, but it’s also a catchy buzzword and a shiny new object marketed to catch the eye of the C-suite.
Your IT buyers’ top-level bosses are apt to be chafing for routes to adoption of Industry 4.0 practices, and it will be up to senior IT staff to scope, price, and assess risk for a rollout.
This is a very different way of operating, on many fronts, and your buyers will need solid answers to move forward or hold the line. The more you can provide, the more essential you’ll be for the next chapter of corporate growth.