If you browse through the variety of articles on the manufacturing domain during the modern era, you’ll notice the same recurring line that authors are glued to: invest, one needs to invest in Industry 4.0 to make a difference.

  Reading this, a bunch of legitimate questions arises: what about timeframes? If you talk about a tangible change, how long does one have to wait to see the impact of innovations in full measure? According to the report on digital enterprises by the agency PWC, the majority of companies expect to see a return on investment (ROI) within two years or less

At the same time, just 37% of companies expect those changes to happen in a period of three to five years, and very few among them – 8% – believe that it will take more than five years for investments to pay for themselves. Basically, given to the nature of the manufacturing industry, no-one thought that the success would happen overnight as long as we talk about not just some trendy buzzwords, but a radical change of the modern factory.

Yet again, time is a crucial factor as nobody’s happy to catch up the leaving train. That is why, according to the same report, about 20% of companies are planning to invest in Industry 4.0 innovations more than 10% of their annual revenues in the next five years.

Industry professionals agree that the IIoT is a defining element of the fourth industrial revolution, and if to paraphrase a famous motto – “be quick in adoption or spend more”. The report on smart manufacturing by Accenture claims that the first enterprises to adopt IIoT will profit from a significant 30% drop in maintenance costs, due to the proactive schedule maintenance downtime. The same number – 30% – applies to the new level of productivity raise. All in all, IIoT sensors can help to integrate information technology with operational technology in a more synergistic way. 

According to the chart above, Japanese, German and Chinese companies may be regarded as the current leaders of the pack in terms of IIoT adoption. Their investments in Industry 4.0 technology, smart manufacturing data management and employee training are quite substantial, so no wonder they expect higher operational efficiency, cost reduction and quality assurance from their digital transformation. 

However, the journey towards digitalization begins at facilities where equipment is still unconnected. This means that it is being fixed strictly following a breakage, and any maintenance works are on schedule regardless of workload. Such level of uncertainty costs a lot both in monetary and reputational terms. That’s why it is vital to make equipment smart enough to self-manage and cooperate with the manufacturing system, so manufacturers can benefit more from improved reliability, predictability and optimization.

Sure enough, making the factory smart is a significant challenge to say the least, and at the moment few manufacturing entities are fully undergoing the transformation. And, sure – manufacturing professionals will face some difficult choices at the very beginning. But one way or another, now it the right time to at least start thinking about going digital.