Tech, talent or strategy? What stands in the way of Industry 4.0?

Published on the 20/02/2020 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Industry 4.0_Deloitte survey

A new survey finds C-suite execs optimistic about Industry 4.0 – but only in principle…

While the honeymoon isn’t exactly over, a new Deloitte survey of more than 2,000 C-suite executives across 19 countries finds a tempering of the Industry 4.0 optimism.

According to the survey, Success Personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the second in Deloitte’s annual series), a significant gap exists between business leaders’ enthusiasm for the possibilities presented by Industry 4.0 principles and their companies’ actual readiness to harness those opportunities.

In fact, 55 percent of leaders surveyed highlighted ‘a significant mismatch’ between current skill sets and those needed in the future. Fifty-seven percent believe the education system is inadequately preparing incoming workers (a big jump from just 35 percent last year) and only 17 percent of CxOs say they are making effective Industry 4.0 tech investment a priority for their organisation (making it the lowest ranking among 12 investment priorities).

“Short-termism and the struggle to develop effective, holistic strategies that take advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies continue.”

The report puts it plainly: “Executives are struggling to develop effective strategies in today’s rapidly changing markets.

“Faced with an ever-increasing array of new technologies, leaders [say] they feel as though they have too many options from which to choose and, in some cases, they lack the strategic vision to help guide their efforts.

“Organisational influences also challenge leaders as they seek to navigate Industry 4.0. Many leaders reported that their companies don’t follow clearly defined decision-making processes – and that organisational silos limit their ability to develop and share knowledge to implement effective strategies.”

So what’s our problem here? The difference, says Deloitte, is in having a plan.

“We found that some companies, particularly those with a comprehensive Industry 4.0 strategy, are performing well while others lag behind,” says Deloitte CEO, Punit Renjen.

According to the report, two-thirds of CxOs say their companies either have no formal strategies or are taking ad-hoc approaches.

That’s short-sighted Renjen says.

“Short-termism and the struggle to develop effective, holistic strategies that take advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies… continue, to the detriment of many organisations’ operations.

“The survey data suggests businesses with comprehensive Industry 4.0 strategies are far more successful across the board,” insists Renjen.

“They’re innovating and growing faster, successfully integrating Industry 4.0 technologies, and doing a better job of attracting and training the people they’ll need in the future.”

While there is no one recipe for success in how to deal with rapid industrial transformation, a good place to start would be getting serious about training, says Deloitte.

“The responsibility for developing skills seems to have shifted,” says Renjen. “A growing number of leaders accept responsibility for developing their workforces, with fewer executives than last year putting the onus on the individual worker. More than 80 percent of respondents said they either have created or are creating a corporate culture of lifelong learning, with another 17 percent planning to do so.”

The silver lining here is that while few executives – or anyone else – claim to fully understand the skills necessary to succeed in the forthcoming Industry 4.0 world, there’s at least an acknowledgment of that ignorance and a desire to rise above it: Six out of 10 of those asked reported having made ‘significant investments’ in their own journeys to understand what skills will be needed to thrive in the hyper-connected 4.0 future.

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