Industry 4.0 projects
Industry 4.0 Innovation Manufacturing Engineering Strategy Technology

Who should manage 4.0 projects in a company?

In a recent survey on LinkedIn we asked which department should be delegated to manage projects related to Industry 4.0 in a manufacturing company. Here are the results:

  • 12% think that the IT Dept. should be in charge of managing the projects
  • 36% think it should be Manufacturing Dept.
  • 28% think it is instead the task of Operations Dept.
  • Finally, 24% think there are other Dept. that should have such ownership

Mostly, the answers are biased by their own experience and business function, that is, those who work in the IT field think that the IT entity should take care of it, those who work in technologies think it should be their own Dept. and so on.

This organizational aspect is fundamental when planning a technological roadmap: deciding who does what and who should coordinate the activities is in fact one of the key points for the success of the projects.

Although the choice largely depends on the organization of your company, in this post we will make some considerations on the matter and we will take the opportunity to dispel some myths.


4.0 is not just about connecting machinery and IT systems


When we talk about Industry 4.0, we often make the mistake of relegating the subject to the mere connection of machinery for collecting data from the production system. This is obviously correct, however according to the Boston Consulting Group in 4.0 a series of additional technologies must be considered:

In this sense, the IT department is probably the best choice when you want to implement or integrate an IT infrastructure suitable for data collection and exchange. But what data to collect and how to analyze them?


4.0 above all means extracting value from the data coming from the workshop


Once the production system is connected to the IT network, the decision on which data to collect will most likely be up to the company management based on the reference performance metrics. For example, OEE, Lead time and workforce efficiency are common metrics in Operations, which therefore should take charge of analyzing such data and implementing algorithms suitable to automate some key decisions in real time through machine learning, for example. If, on the other hand, these metrics concern plant maintenance, it will be the Maintenance department (often under the Operations department) that will be responsible for deciding which are the key metrics and therefore also which hardware solution is more convenient (bearing vibration, threshold reference, accelerometers, etc.).

If, on the other hand, data analysis is necessary to analyze the processes from a qualitative point of view through statistical tools (such as Six Sigma), it will probably be the process technology body and the Quality body that will have to manage the implementation of the project.

And what if we wanted to introduce greater automation and autonomy in the production system?


New manufacturing capabilities


The introduction and implementation of collaborative robots and AGVs in a production system, for example, has to do with the process capacity and capability, competence of the Manufacturing Dept. However, even in this case and depending on the company structure, the Operations Dept. will play a fundamental role in assessing the impact of new technology in the factory (es. Impact on the workforce). The same can be said regarding the introduction of new manufacturing solutions such as Additive Manufacturing. In some cases, this concerns solutions related to the production environment (eg. Fixtures, supports, masks, etc.), while in other cases it concerns the realization of finished products, therefore the Design Dept. will share resposnibility with the Manufacturing Dept.


Workforce support


There is also the possibility of using Augmented Reality and the Cloud to share information by using wearable devices. Also in this case, the project will be likely owned both by the Manufacturing and the Operations Dept., depending on the organization and distribution of the company’s resources.

Not only Augmented Reality and Cloud, but there are many other solutions that fall within the world of 4.0 that can be used to support the workforce. For example, smart torque wrenches and Real time Locating Systems (RTLS) (both in the IIoT field) can provide a valid support in the setup phase or final assembly (smart torque wrench) or in the management of warehouses and logistics of semi-finished products in the production flow (RTLS). Or, you can significantly reduce the learning curve in training by using Virtual Reality solutions. In this case, the Operations Dept. and Human Resources will have to work closely together to organize and implement operator training. If the training takes place to train operators regarding the introduction of new products or processes, these teams will have to support the various projects, accordingly.


Design and optimization of the production system through simulations


Simulation processes, like discrete event simulations, kinematic, multi-physics or ergonomics simulations, represent another valid help in reducing risks during CAPEX or in the optimization of production lines. The simulation can take place at different levels of abstraction, from the management of the logistic flow to the simulation of the physics of the system, (e.g. forging plants). In this case, the Manufacturing Dept. will take charge of for the simulation projects with the support of the Operations unit.


Cyber security: protect the data flow


Once these systems have been implemented, it will be necessary to ensure that the data generated is adequately protected through cybersecurity solutions. In this case, it will always be the IT entity that will have to take care of ensuring the implementation of these solutions and, together with Human Resources, provide adequate training to employees in the use of the company’s IT resources.


So, who should be responsible for 4.0 Projects?


Based on what has been said, it is clear that depending on the project there will be different entities that will have to take charge of ownership. Therefore, it will be necessary to create integrated and multi-disciplinary project teams with different IT, product, process and quality skills with a view to concurrent engineering. However, it will be necessary to establish a strategy by the company management, decide and prioritize projects based on needs and resources (people, budget and time).

In this sense, it could be particularly useful to create a 4.0 team that deals with global project management.

In summary, a typical structure for the implementation of some 4.0 projects could be the following:


4.0 Project Structure


Once again, it should be emphasized that a concurrent engineering approach, therefore extremely synergistic and multi-disciplinary is the recommended solution.


How to define the correct strategy?


In this post I tried to answer a simple question: who should take charge of 4.0 projects within a manufacturing company? There is no answer, in the sense that depending on the project, one Dept. rather than the other will be responsible for the ownership and implementation of this project. However, it is essential that a vision, a strategy and an implementation plan are established upstream to ensure the success of the projects.

Strong and concrete leadership should also take charge of communicating the vision of change to make stakeholders aware of the need to implement new 4.0 technologies. Finally, in the case of highly structured companies, a highly multi-disciplinary central 4.0 management team could be estblished to define the portfolio (take a look here), plan and supervise the various projects.

In this sense, SkillS4i can be of great help in various areas:

For more information, contact us to discuss your needs together.

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Nicola Accialini

Hi there! I am Nicola, founder and admin of SkillS4i. Aerospace Engineer, technology enthusiast and industrial expert. I live in Spain and I like travelling, cycling, hiking and reading.

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