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Understanding Leadership’s Role in Industry 4.0

Human/Machine Management
Understanding Leadership’s Role in Industry 4.0

“If a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor, Terminator 2 : Judgement Day

Let’s take a trip in time.

Five hundred years before the Industrial Revolution, (aka the First Industrial Revolution) the waterborne city of Venice had the unique distinction of being the single largest industrial complex in Europe, perhaps the World.

The Venice Arsenal, forever immortalised in Dante’s Inferno, had pioneered production techniques for use in large-scale warship construction. This manufacturing innovation displayed incredible speed of production and efficiency.

While the rest of the world was still producing goods using the antiquated “guild system”, Venetian manufacturing leaders had streamlined a production facility capable of building, equipping, arming, and crucially repairing a warship.

The start of Industrial revolution: Venetian_Galley_(14th_century)

The start of Industrial revolution: Venetian_Galley_(14th_century)


Production would begin at the head of the river, where the ship’s structure would be assembled, and as it floated downstream, each standardized component would be added by craftsmen. As she gently eased down the river, the ship would be planked, rigged, and finally armed. This is likely the origin of the terms, upstream, downstream, supply stream, value stream and yes, streamlined.

By the early 16th century, the Arsenal employed approximately 16,000 workers, achieving the remarkable production quota of one completed warship per day, on time and on budget. This efficient and creative approach to shipbuilding, made Venice an industrial powerhouse and a global power for 600 years.

To satisfy the supply chain, Venetian politicos seized and maintained control through the Gotthard pass over the Swiss alps to the bountiful German forests. This robust supply chain would be secured through the principle of “mercantilism”, as dubbed centuries later by Adam Smith, where trade is accessory to diplomacy, and diplomacy accessory to trade.

The economic success of the Venetian Arsenal was driven by the following key components; an assembly line, government protected supply chain, access to raw materials, division of labour and a very cooperative bureaucracy. Everyone got rich.

What are the 4 Industrial Revolutions?

  • First Industrial Revolution ca.1765 – mechanisation, coal extraction, steam power and subsequently rail travel
  • Second Industrial Revolution ca. 1870 – electricity, gas, and oil. development of steel demand, chemical synthesis, and methods of communication such as the telegraph and the telephone.
  • Third Industrial Revolution ca. 1969 – electronics, telecommunications and, of course, computers, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Robots, helped give rise to an era of high-level automation.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution ca. 2000 – IoT (Internet of Things), artificial intelligence, genome editing, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing,

It wouldn’t be until the mid-18th century when these Venetian manufacturing principles would be adopted by industrial barons both in Britain and America, heralding the first of currently 4 Industrial Revolutions. Historians can now, in retrospect, identify and classify each revolution by their accompanying technologies.

Why is it called Industry 4.0?

The fourth phase in a series of industrial shifts, Industry 4.0 (or the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is an extremely new term, introduced to the greater global community by mechanical engineer and economist Klaus Schwab.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in 2016, Schwab used the term to describe the new industrial paradigm where innovative physical, digital, and biological technologies would interface with one and other to create the next massive industrial change.

Leadership in Industry 4.0

These “revolutions”, or alternatively dubbed, “evolutions”, by Enginuity Industry 4.0  Program Manager Dan Hill, were transformational shifts that not only accompanied massive technological innovations, but also ushered in momentous transformations in management, leadership and human behaviour.

In response, these process developments came with corresponding management requirements.

The divisions of labour that marked the 2nd industrial revolution was accompanied by a “command and control” management style. This era also introduced the first consultant, American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor.  Affectionally named “Taylorism”, this management system broke down production into small repeatable individual tasks. Taylor’s focus on efficiency and optimisation of human capital was adopted by industries worldwide and is still adhered to today. However, with the advent of Industry 4.0, the status quo has quickly had an about face, effectively redefining the roll of management and leadership in industry.

Pig Iron Breakers at Coltness Ironworks, circa 1910.

Pig Iron Breakers at Coltness Ironworks, circa 1910.

Are you a Manager or Leader?

Although great for productivity, Taylorism had 5 key disadvantages:

  1. Human factors: Taylorism often overlooks the psychological and social dimensions of work and erodes the quality of the work environment.
  2. Monotony: The division of work into repetitive, simplistic tasks causes boredom and dissatisfaction among employees. This boredom may ultimately adversely affect productivity.
  3. Worker Disenfranchisement: The sharp division between conceptual and manual work can suppress employee creativity and initiative, making workers feel extremely undervalued.
  4. Short-sightedness: Prioritising efficiency often overlooks long-term objectives, potentially compromising quality, and stifling innovation.
  5. Increased Error Susceptibility: The high degree of specialization in tasks means that a mistake in a minor task can disrupt the entire operation, heightening the likelihood of error propagation.

These issues were not alleviated by the introduction of robotics and automation. In many cases, the problems were compounded. It may be argued that the recent (r)evolution is a response to the short comings of Taylorism.

Industry 3.0 saw automation and robotics work alongside the worker on the production line, but today’s Industry 4.0 has automation serving the employees. This is a big difference. And its implementation requires a deep understanding and expertise.

Enginuity Program Manager Dan Hill precisely describes the tectonic shift in this new industrial age, “Prior to I4, humans responded to machines, now machines are responding to humans.”

It will take leaders, not managers to navigate this paradigm shift. Hill clarifies the distinction between management and leadership. “Managers keep the status quo in perpetual stasis, but in order to grow and continually improve, an organisation requires leadership”.

Dan is well positioned to help organisations take full of advantage and realise their full potential. His profound understating that humans are the heart and soul of manufacturing informs every aspect of his work.

To fully maximise the potential of what this new era offers businesses, it takes a combination of technical and academic prowess. Enginuity’s Automation and Robotics team takes existing processes and seamlessly adds value to the production line by integrating many of Industry 4.0s key features, such as:

  • Digital twinning
  • AI Analytics
  • Cloud Computing
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Cybersecurity
  • Augmented Reality
  • Intelligent Robotics
  • Collaborative Robotics

Enginuity determines which aspects of your organisation are most critical to your business model and which areas will immediately benefit from an I4 transformation. This data set is thoroughly analysed by in-house savant Dan Hill who will precisely determine how the upgrade will increase Return On Investment (ROI) while avoiding any disruption to on-going commerce.

Working together with organisational leaders for the common goal of continuous improvement is one of the tenets of the Enginuity team. As the Arsenal of Venice did some 600 years ago, organisations can now streamline their processes without compromising human capital – a win, win for everyone.

Industry 4.0 is an opportunity for a brave, transformational future that can revolutionize your business. And that future is here. It only needs leaders to get things started. As Program Manager Dan Hill asserts, “A Leader has the courage to see potential”.

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