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Mark Cotteleer
Brenna Sniderman

How organizations choose to prioritize operations versus growth can serve as a guide as to which areas could merit the greatest attention with respect to adoption of Industry 4.0—and even which technologies might warrant deeper investment.

Enabling individuals: Challenging and empowering both workers and customers

Industry 4.0 likely means different things for different individuals. For employees, Industry 4.0 could signify a shift in the work they are expected to do, and how they are expected to do it. For the customer, Industry 4.0 could enable greater customization and products and services that better meet their needs.

Shifting demands for the workforce

The rise of smart automation and ubiquitous, connected systems in the age of Industry 4.0 appears to herald a change in what organizations could ask of their workers: what skills they require, what tasks need to be done, even what roles would be needed.21 These changes can feel nebulous as Industry 4.0 itself is still nascent, and the contours of its fuller impact continue to shift. However, they may not necessarily mean the loss of jobs: In the United Kingdom, for example, technology helped to create 3.5 million new jobs between 2001 and 2015, even while it contributed to the loss of 800,000.22

At the individual level, Industry 4.0 can both enable and challenge workers to do much more. Connected enterprises could mean the creation of troves of data, while the marriage of digital and physical worlds may compel workers to perform complex, variable, and often unpredictable tasks that require an ability to access and understand that data.23 Further, new technologies—and the ways in which they are incorporated into workflows and the day-to-day functions of the organization—can mean new training needs. Individuals will need to navigate how they interact with and work alongside Industry 4.0 technologies, and how their responsibilities and roles may evolve as a result.

The impact of Industry 4.0 on workers can, and likely will, take many shapes. Smart digital and physical technologies can be used as tools to enhance workers’ jobs and make tasks easier. Their contributions can even rise beyond that to a broader partnership in which autonomous technologies work alongside people—each leveraging their inherent strengths to achieve an outcome greater than either could accomplish alone.24 They may also give rise to wholly new roles, just as they enable new products and services.25

A more tailored, engaging experience for customers

While we have already explored Industry 4.0’s potential effects on customers, it could carry significant benefits for every stage of the customer, from initial research and sales to account management and aftermarket service.26

The PDP loop provides an explanation for the ways in which Industry 4.0 might benefit customers: They interact with the company in some way through its products, services, or other touchpoints, creating data that can then be analyzed to drive an action tailored to the customer’s needs or behavior. Further, that data can be aggregated with historical information and data from other clients to better understand and even predict customer preferences, or be fed back into the research and development process to inform better-designed offerings.

What should you do next?

There is little doubt that penetration of Industry 4.0 concepts in companies’ processes and operations will grow. Information flow, advanced technologies, and materials—in other words, the digital and physical technologies that comprise Industry 4.0—make it possible to access real-time information and insights throughout an organization to drive actionable insights. This, in turn, enables companies to accomplish entirely new things in entirely new ways and potentially revolutionize supply chains, production, and business models.

As you consider your approach to Industry 4.0, you can take the following actions:

Get immersed in innovation. Explore the art of the possible to push the organization to understand the application of various technologies and their potential impacts on the business. Understand what drives your need to differentiate and start to think about how to get there.

Build an ecosystem. Assess the organization’s digital maturity to understand what might be feasible, and what steps should be taken to build the necessary technological capabilities with the resources you already have in place, versus what new resources you might need to acquire to get there. Beyond the technologies themselves, consider the expert resources you may want to cultivate, either externally or internally, as part of your Industry 4.0 network.

Scale at the edges. At times, it makes sense to start with smaller stakes, where strategies can be tested and refined with relatively fewer consequences. Selecting projects at the “edges” of the organization can provide greater latitude for building out Industry 4.0 at a broader scale, and can also help individuals feel less afraid to fail, which could ultimately lead to greater innovation.

Start with one or two transformations to prove it works. Prioritize areas that can unlock several waves of potential value, and consider then building on those successes for exponential growth. Initial successes can serve as proof points, leading to a greater willingness to take a chance on more substantive investments.

Don’t wait for perfect, and keep iterating. Industry 4.0 technologies seem to be rapidly evolving, and there is typically room to iterate. Learning from previous experiences can inform the next set of initiatives and help home in on the next list of priorities.

Changes are happening quickly. But with change often comes opportunity: Industry 4.0’s ability to play an integral role in strategic decision-making, broader ecosystem integration, and customization of products and services to the specific needs of customers and clients. Establishing a competitive advantage requires the willingness to join the fray.

Are you ready to get started?

Deloitte Insights Industry 4.0 Collection

To learn more about our research and explore the full Industry 4.0 collection, visit the Industry 4.0 collection page on Deloitte Insights.


    Brenna Sniderman, Monika Mahto, and Mark Cotteleer, Industry 4.0 and manufacturing ecosystems: Exploring the world of connected enterprises, Deloitte University Press, February 22, 2016.


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    Aaron Parrott and Lane Warshaw, Industry 4.0 and the digital twin: Manufacturing meets its match, Deloitte University Press, May 12, 2017.


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    Rick Burke, Adam Mussomeli, Stephen Laaper, Martin Hartigan, and Brenna Sniderman, The smart factory: Responsive, adaptive, connected manufacturing, Deloitte University Press, August 31, 2017.


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    Chris Coleman, Satish Damodaran, Mahesh Chandramouli, and Ed Deuel, Making maintenance smarter: Predictive maintenance and the digital supply network, Deloitte University Press, May 9, 2017.


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    Adam Mussomeli, Doug Gish, and Stephen Laaper, The rise of the digital supply network: Industry 4.0 enables the digital transformation of supply chains, Deloitte University Press, December 1, 2016.


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