Points of View

Manufacturers must use the four-factor prioritization guideline to evaluate their Industry 4.0 journey partners

Apr 21, 2020 Tanmoy Mondal Tapati Bandopadhyay

The latest HFS Industry 4.0 Top 10 (December 2019) revealed that manufacturers prioritize domain depth and consulting-driven approaches when they evaluate transformation partners. Quite rightly so; in the Industry 4.0 capabilities map, domain wins over technology finesse. The top-ranking service providers—Accenture, KPMG, and EY—have a strong consulting background and DNA. Primarily, they focus on domain depth and the on-the-ground business challenges and targets clients require, rather than putting a hot spotlight on technology muscles. This is a key differentiator in their winning strategy in this market; the other two players in the top five, IBM and HCL, rely on their strength in technical solutions. We’re not implying that the Industry 4.0 technology offerings from the consulting-driven partners are not mature, only that these providers with a consultative lineage are strategically positioning themselves with a domain and business-outcomes focus as their key differentiator. The demand side of the market is aptly appreciative of and receptive to the dominant players’ strategic priorities on the supply side. This PoV acts as a guideline for manufacturers to start their Industry 4.0 journey, including the selection of their technology service providers.


It’s not about “doing” Industry 4.0! Focus on your business challenges


One senior leader from a global manufacturing company shared how the integrated blend of domain strengths and consulting skills from the practitioners of their service provider partners in the Industry 4.0 journey helped solve a challenge on the ground. The company eventually achieved its targeted outcomes in a realistic, risk-mitigated, and process-debt-optimized manner. For example, the company had a plan to sunset existing machinery and to manage its end-of-life; this plan sensibly and optimally reduced technical and operational process debts while keeping the knowledgebase intact and relevant.


Therefore, it’s “not about doing Industry 4.0”! It’s about what the client achieved after its Industry 4.0 transformation. It’s about solving the business challenge of the inefficiencies of age-old, inflexible manufacturing machinery that’s still in use because alternatives aren’t available and bringing in the dynamism and customizability new systems offer. Enterprises are constantly trying to be in sync with the changing market demands of digital businesses and new-age customers while being pragmatic about getting optimal value out of the existing installed tech base. The as-is technology and process debts are substantial; chucking them out of the window and dropping new technology boxes in their place in the hopes they would immediately increase production line efficiency is a Utopian idea, to say the least. Transformation partners need to see these challenges practically and holistically rather than seeing them as “yet another technology migration, upgrade, or transformation program.”


Use a domain-focused prioritization guideline while evaluating your Industry 4.0 transformation partner


The movement toward Industry 4.0 is a journey toward smart and emerging technology-leveraged, software-driven manufacturing. But the holistic picture of manufacturing and digital value propositions that industry 4.0 enables and focuses on is much more than a technology migration. It’s a completely new way of looking at your existing manufacturing processes, making the outcomes of those processes more flexible, dynamic, continuously optimizing, and autonomously and smartly syncing to changing market needs. Making the “hard-coded” machines “softer”—more intelligent, data-leveraged, self-optimizing, and software-driven—is one of the key technology levers to achieve this massive transformation. But other transformation levers need to be at full throttle as well.


For example, changing people’s work practices and habits is tough for manufacturers. Changing the work culture requires building trust and communication bridges between smart humans and smarter, faster, and more powerful machines is a much harder and much more critical lever. Changing the processes so that stakeholders accept and adopt the new machines and new value propositions they enable is no easy task either. The technology service providers that are running complex transformation projects on the ground as consultants and practitioners, not just use-case implementors, have a good understanding of the domain challenges and organization culture.


Keeping these aspects in mind, manufacturers must use these guideline when evaluating industry 4.0 service partners;


  • Domain first, not technology: Prioritize partners that speak your business language and don’t resort to tech-speak, spending too much time describing their technology solutions. Partners should be able to practically demonstrate how they work.
  • Client challenges and outcomes in focus: Prefer service partners that start and end with your key business challenges and targeted outcomes, not those that talk a lot about their generic caliber and capabilities.
  • Consultative approach: Critically evaluate your partners’ consultative capabilities; for example, the strength and maturity of their decisions, journey-mapping frameworks, and problem-solving methodologies.
  • People with consulting experience and DNA: Prioritize partners who can successfully showcase relevant journey partners with demonstrated prior consulting experience in similar organizations in the same or adjacent domains. They will ask you the right probing questions and try to understand your business problem before quickly jumping into solutions design.


Three imperatives for the manufacturers to start their Industry 4.0 journey


Manufacturers first need to understand the implication of Industry 4.0 within the context of their overall strategy before engaging the technology partners as described in Exhibit 1. Later, manufacturers and technology service providers can brainstorm together to define the roadmap and identify use cases.



Exhibit 1: Action items for next Monday morning




Source: HFS Research 2020



The Bottom Line: Manufacturers must consider domain depth and consulting expertise while evaluating industry 4.0 journey partners


Industry 4.0 is much more than a technology transformation journey. It requires a holistic approach, combining the people, process, technology, and business change aspects in the manufacturing domain. Therefore, while choosing the right partner for this transformation, enterprise leaders must prioritize domain depth and consulting expertise.



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