As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution?

As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution? 



Robert Mitchell:  Quality Matters

First, let’s begin with an operational definition of Industry 4.0.
Wikipedia defines Industry 4.0 as “the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain”.

Accenture released a report in January 2015 that concluded an industrial-scale version of Industry 4.0 could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years.

Christoph Roser at illustrates the four industrial revolutions:

So, the fourth industrial revolution is the move towards digitization including automation, robotics, artificial intelligence. The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) in the United States is a non-profit organization comprising manufacturers, suppliers, technology firms, government agencies, universities and laboratories that share the goal of advancing the thinking behind Industry 4.0. Its purpose is to construct an open, smart manufacturing platform for industrial-networked information applications.

In a Forbes article dated June 20, 2016, Bernard Marr states that in order for a factory or system to be considered Industry 4.0, it must include:

  • Interoperability — machines, devices, sensors and people that connect and communicate with one another.
  • Information transparency — the systems create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data in order to contextualize  information.
  • Technical assistance — both the ability of the systems to support humans in making decisions and solving problems and the ability to assist humans with tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans.
  • Decentralized decision-making — the ability of cyber-physical systems to make simple decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.

Having defined Industry 4.0, it is clear that assuring such inter-connectedness of software, sensors, devices and data centers requires a quality system that delivers data integrity, privacy and reliability in addition to assuring reliable, rugged, scalable, fully-integrated systems and processes that seamlessly data-share between networks while consistently meeting producer, governmental and customer needs. Opportunities exist for the Quality professional to make significant, innovative contributions in areas of software quality assurance, reliability, process validation, environmental life testing and accelerated stress testing, Real Time Process Monitoring, advanced calibration and big data analytics. Now, more than ever, product development and commercialization teams must assure reliable machine-human interface ease of use and real-time results-driven feedback loops. And, of course, discover even deeper insights to the ever-changing voice of customer (and voice of process) along with a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience throughout the value chain (e.g. journey maps), and assure that the organization is measuring the right key metrics to deliver success.

Industry 4.0 offers exciting new challenges to the Quality profession while building on our expertise of problem solving, process improvement, and managing the organizational white spaces to sustain customer focus and achieve operational excellence

Natella Isazada:

The top two areas that quality professionals need to master in order to succeed in Industry 4 are soft skills and innovation. My opinion is supported by the evidence below.

Modern scientific progress and rapid technological advances enable the automation of more processes and tasks more rapidly and effectively than ever before. Contemporary workplaces include many examples where machines are replacing humans. In an environment like this each of us has to distinguish our value and contributions from those of automated machines and programmed applications. One competitive advantage humans have over robots is our people skills and that is one strength quality professionals need to further develop and to capitalize on.

During the fourth industrial revolution those quality professionals who limit their capabilities and contributions strictly to data interpretation and reports, will render themselves obsolete and face extinction. Quality professionals who desire to adapt to the new dynamics, need to extend our skill sets beyond the usual statistical calculations and technical tools. Aptitude in knowledge transfer, business management and the humanities will be essential in the near future. Quality professionals are already becoming internal management consultants leading strategic planning and risk management initiatives as well as building knowledge management systems. Our ability to translate quality concepts across departments can help us further solidify our positions and sustain our importance within the organization.

The key to our profession’s survival and success throughout the new industrial revolution is to continue adding sustainable value in the ever changing environments. As Quality professionals, we have to go beyond traditional methods and use innovative strategies and tools including

  • Design Thinking,
  • Internet of Things,
  • Quality as a Service, and
  • Mastery of technological solutions like Big Data and Cloud-based capabilities.

To be an integral asset in Industry 4 we have to really tune in to customer needs and think what requirements customers will have in the future. The value of every great idea is determined by its ability to solve customer pain. Most likely the solution to the future pain lies somewhere outside of our current capabilities, requiring our full efforts to prepare for the expectations and demands of the new era.


John Hunter: Curious Cat 

Technological innovation brings great opportunity for improving results and quality of life. But transforming potential benefits into real results comes with many challenges.

One of the aspects of management that the fourth industrial revolution makes more important is the ability for organizations to rapidly adjust to drastic changes in the market and competitive landscape. Organizations need to be designed to be robust and to cope well with the increasingly rapid pace of transformative innovation.

Many organizations will hope the fourth industrial revolution allows them to avoid making the necessary improvements to their management thinking and management systems.  Adopting quality management practices requires that executives change their behavior and decision making processes but the last 50 years has shown that is a difficult task.  Most often management improvements at the executive level are very limited (even while significant improvements are made to operational level processes).

I fear the hope that the fourth industrial revolution will be possible without transforming the executive level management practices will fair as badly as GM’s investment in robotics in the 1980s fared.


Pam Schodt: Quality and Improvement in Work and Life 

Some aspects of Industry 4.0 are automation, data exchange, the internet of things, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and computer innovations.

Quality professionals need to stay relevant. By relevant, I mean they need to understand these aspects on a general level and stay updated on technical applications and systems that interconnect, exchange data, and prompt autonomous decisions in their industries.

In some cases, this understanding is no further away than a youtube video. The internet has made staying technically relevant easier. The quality professional should take advantage of all in-company resources as well as local chapter and national ASQ educational opportunities. If you want to request speakers on new technology, reach out to chapter leadership. If you have Industry 4.0 experience, offer to exchange information in the form of a talk or tour with your local chapter membership.


Chris Moustakas:

There are two kinds of data scientists, the joke goes: 1) Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

If you got that, congratulations, you’re a natural! If not, don’t worry, it’s still early days. Although talk of big data, artificial intelligence, and internet of things dominate the tech airwaves, the truth is that we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with all the data we’re collecting.

If you’re a quality professional and you feel overwhelmed or even threatened by the subject, you shouldn’t: in fact, you should welcome it, because it’s going to make your role that much more critical to your organization. Ultimately, the purpose of data is to derive insights regarding trends and patterns, so as to uncover bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Sound familiar? The tools and methods may be evolving, but at the end of the day a human (you) needs to translate those insights into organizationally appropriate actions.

Quality has always been about collecting and understanding data. By making it easier to gather and analyze information from sources previously prohibitive, technology has thrown open a wonderful door of opportunity. IT may know how to install the sensors and implement the software to crunch the inputs, but why they crunch and to what end needs to be done with purpose – and Quality professionals can play a central role in shaping that purpose.

Just as excitingly, this is a fantastic chance to work closely with IT, a part of the organization from which Quality has often been separated, if not completely alienated. Both teams pack significant brainpower – enabling them to work together through a common objective will be transformative to those organizations willing to take the plunge.


Luciana Paulise:  Biztorming

A report from Mc Kinsey Global Institute “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity” said that as big data “become an increasingly valuable asset, their intelligent exploitation will be critical for enterprises to compete effectively. The use of big data will become a key basis of competition across sectors, so it is imperative that organizational leaders begin to incorporate big data into their business plans.” They defined 5 themes leaders need to start thinking about to keep their companies in the loop: manage inventory data assets, identify potential opportunities and threats, buildup internal capabilities to create a data driven organization, develop an enterprise information strategy and address data policy issues.

In God we trust, all others must bring data

As Edwards Deming once said, In God we trust, all others must bring data.  These 5 characteristics sound really like a Deming company where measuring data and following the Plan Do Study ACT cycle has to be part of the company culture. The problem is that unfortunately there are many companies in the world that are still lacking this insight. In my recent book SOS PYMES (A.k.a. Small business Help) I describe the situation of small business in developing countries where measuring data is not exactly part of their day to day activities.

Here is where quality experts can help the new generation of business leaders all across the world.  Teaching about the importance of big data and all kind of company measures to capture, communicate and analyze as part of the decision making process is key. Six Sigma or the Deming System of profound Knowledge are such great examples of starting points for training people to think about data as an asset.

Companies will need not only supporting technology personnel to implement big data, but also managers and analysts who know how to request and consume big data analyses.

All of the business leaders in an organization will have to develop a baseline understanding of analytical techniques in order to use big data effectively. As McKinsey report mentions, “Organizations can modify their recruiting criteria to take this requirement into account, but more importantly, they will need to develop training programs to increase the capabilities of their current management and analyst ranks.”


Prem Ranganath:  Medium

In recent months, I have had a chance to participate in several informal and formal forums on what does the future hold for quality practitioners in Industry 4.0. The reference to Industry 4.0 is centered in a world where transactions, interactions, product development, insights and decisions are largely driven by technologies such as AI, big data, automation/ robotics and IoT. The most common questions I have heard at these forums include,

  •  will formal improvement programs enabled by Lean and Six Sigma still matter,?
  •  would organizations still seek certifications based on ISO, CMMI etc.?
  •  does quality take on a new meaning in Industry 4.0 organizations?
  •  what would upskilling mean for quality practitioner so that they can prepare for rapid changes sweeping their organizations (or their customers)?

Although I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what Industry 4.0 holds for quality practitioners, here is what I think the changes mean for quality practitioners (including myself). I look forward to hearing the views of my peers in ASQ and in industry.

  1.  Technologies driving the evolution of Industry 4.0 still require well designed business processes. Automation of inefficient processes or attempting to draw deep insights from data pumped out by applications whose reliability and integrity are questionable only adds
    more risk to the organization
  2.  With the increased number of system integrations and potential technical complexity led by connected devices, there will be a need for quality practitioners to view platforms as the context (in place of systems and products). This evolution will also require quality practitioners to extend their skillsets to include risk management, quality management and UX. Industry 4.0 is already driving alignment across these three areas and the emergence of platforms will require quality practitioners
  3.  As mentioned earlier in this post, accelerating flow and driving efficiency cannot be lead to tradeoff in effectiveness nor should it negatively impact the risk profile of the platform. This is where the design for quality perspective will become important and I foresee quality practitioners playing an important role in enabling organizations succeed on this front
  4.  Effective quality practitioners go beyond the use of methods and number crunching to be impactful change agents. They bring the right balance of knowledge in organizational processes and technology so that they can help teams navigate through the changes led by transformation initiatives to embrace and transition to Industry 4.0.


Luigi F. Sille: Share Quality

Being a quality manager, I strive for continuous improvement; making procedures / processes more efficient and also more effective. Continuous Improvement has to do with CHANGE, and Quality Management is the KEY for making products, and/or services better for the end users (customers).That’s why quality professionals have a crucial Job.

Technological innovations (technological changes), are related to technological development, and progress. These innovations contribute to some huge changes in the way we operate as a society; RADICAL CHANGES.

Changes that will impact the way we live, work, and connect to one another.

How are companies going to do business in the future, and what part will the quality professional play throughout this industrial revolution?

  • Fast changes in the digital area means that the world is becoming smaller. Everybody can do business all over the world. So there will be NO limitations in where/who we choose to affiliate ourselves with. We experience videoconferences, mobile devices, so office work will become somewhat obsolete in certain areas.
  • Partnerships between organizations will become more widespread. This partnership will be close with one specific aspect in mind: to have a win-win situation for every partner.
  • One other thing that we will experience is that: we will see everybody (customers, organizations, and partners) working together to develop new opportunities (the win-win relationship). Continuous improvement is present, and ALIVE.

What will the role of the quality professional be throughout the industrial revolution?

I think that we quality professionals have to keep educating ourselves, come together and brainstorm about new programs that fit this new ERA. Quality will always be a very crucial aspect for every organization. So the presence of quality professionals is very important. But the way we are used to working, doing our jobs will change (it has already been changing).

The Fourth Industrial revolution will have some huge impacts, but in the end it will all come down to PEOPLE. We have to improve the future, where we can all live happily, and in peace. I look forward to a future where people are our first priority. Where we educate them properly, and after that, empower them. Technical innovations can also have a negative impact on people, but on the other hand it can push mankind to use their skills (creativity) to lift us to the next level.


Sarah Haynes: Sigma Solutions 

It’s in the news every week now – a new development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that makes a real-life version of Terminator look ever more possible. From the trivial to the amazing, AI appears poised to become part of our lives.

History is littered with examples of people who resisted change because it was threatening, scary, or overwhelming, and then were left behind. I’m pretty sure some of my high school teachers still think the internet is “just a fad”.  As Elbert Hubbard said, “The world is moving so fast these days that anyone who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it”.  A better way forward is to try to learn about and understand new technology, and think about how you might use it to add value to your workplace.

I can already hear people saying “I don’t have time”.  As a consultant, blogger and mom, I don’t have a lot of time either.  So take baby steps.  My favourite:  talk to other people (especially millennials!!) about what apps or software they like, and try them out.  Some will be dumb, and some may just change your life.  I tried out Snapchat and deleted it after 2 days.  I tried Zoho books and now I don’t know how I lived without it.  Join a technology group on LinkedIn.  Read the new technology reviews in Saturday’s paper.  Browse through CNET magazine once in a while.

AI will change our world.  How will you move with it?  Joyfully, or fearfully?

2 thoughts on “As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution?”

  1. The basic principle of Industry 4.0 is that by connecting machines, work pieces and systems, businesses are creating intelligent networks along the entire value chain that can control each other autonomously. This interview addressed the prevalence of the Internet of Things in manufacturing and the consequent technology-driven changes which promise to trigger a new industrial revolution.

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