2013 was a watershed year for Industry 4.0, moving from the concept pages to becoming strategic pillars of investment across governments and businesses.

That same year, deep learning neural nets achieved human level accuracy for the first time in history, signaling the arrival of truly disruptive enabling technologies.

Since then, we have seen an ever increasing amount of investment, attention and focus on AI and automation. From factories to warehouses to the broader supply chain (see Figure):

The Human Element in Digital Industry 4.0

A key  question remains however – What about the Human Element? We surveyed more than 100 manufacturing leaders to find out.

Our findings show that while the majority of value adding activities in the forseeable future will still be driven by humans, a disproportional amount of digital effort still focus on machines.

Consider the following three findings:

(1) Humans still perform 72% of tasks in factories, and continue to drive 68%-73% of defects and variability

(2) 30-40% of engineer’s time are spent on doing decades-old time studies and root cause analysis, rather than on higher value adding solution and problem solving

(3) Respondents also noted a universal lack of data into the activities that people perform in the factory. Over 70% believe access to better human analytics can drive better planning, staffing, and decisions.

We believe this imbalance in the 4IR analytics focus and footprint leaves manufacturers with a human centric blind spot. This prevents them from realizing the full digital transformation potential.

Data illuminates opportunities for productivity and quality improvements; simplifies traceability; mitigates variability; and creates new opportunities to empower operators.

Humans are going to be the backbone of manufacturing for the foreseeable future. Companies that focus on the human element in digital Industry 4.0 are the ones that will be best positioned to compete.

Read the full report here

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