Three Lessons Learned in 2019: Industry 4.0 & IIoT Product Innovation

This article is based on key takeaways from Reinaldo Silva's, Head of IIoT, lecture to University of Auckland, New Zealand Faculty of Engineering students. It combines learnings from his lecture with fly-on-the-wall insights from inside Facteon.

Lesson One: Innovate unbridled by legacy

The rise of Industry 4.0 has highlighted the rapid rate at which the manufacturing industry moves. To deliver the latest technology to manufacturers, we need to develop and validate Industry 4.0 and IIoT technologies at speed.

A key challenge is creating flexible technologies that serve our customers well into the future. So, we’re creating a new technology that is future-proof. This means it is designed to be easily maintained and enhanced over time.

As Facteon’s IIoT product suite was recently developed, it’s built on the foundations of Industry 4.0. Many legacy systems are adapted retrospectively to suit Industry 4.0 standards. This can be done, but there are two limitations with this approach.

For manufacturers to draw benefit from legacy systems with freshly laid Industry 4.0 foundations, the system needs to be welcomed to the Internet Age at far more than a superficial level. For example, migrating data collection from on-site tools to the Cloud is a step in the right direction. However, robust security systems must be in place. Therefore, the Industry 4.0 transformation must be more than skin deep for manufacturers to draw real value from a future-proof solution.

For some legacy providers, embracing the cultural shift required to innovate dynamic Industry 4.0 technologies is challenging. This can be particularly difficult for teams tied to notions of what previously made them great. For example, implementing agile work processes and a culture of continuous improvement is central to Facteon’s product development success.

To innovate successfully, three elements must be in play:

1. Smart people

2. Smart processes

3. A culture that understands the value of and embraces digital transformation.

A team of smart people following clearly defined processes minimises the potential risk, in theory.

It’s a mistake to define success as the absence of failure. Failure means that the one idea you were convinced would work is now crossed off the list. You can now move on to the next idea with confidence. That may be another failure or a success. You’ll only find out if you get to work.

Lesson Two: If you’re going to fail, do it fast

Working to avoid failure is futile. Instead, focus on the achievement of each milestone on the road to success.

Before starting work, define success for your organisation. For Facteon’s IIoT team, it’s all about building digital manufacturing solutions that benefit manufacturers of all sizes.

As a business, we encourage fast fails by operating at a high tempo. Whether you’ve been in business for three months or thirty years, never rest on your laurels. It’s essential to continue developing and validating new technologies. At times, that process results in failure.

Lesson Three: Solve problems potential customers have

A major challenge in commercialising Software as a Service (SaaS) products for the business-to-business (B2B) space is managing a complex sales process, often with multiple influencers. Manage this by keeping it simple. Offer a product that mitigates or minimises the challenges faced by your customer. Enhancing your product beyond this point does not add value. It increases the cost and complexity of your offering. This is an unnecessary roadblock on your path to market.

Education is often key to success in the B2B, SaaS product space. However, no dialogue with a customer should be one-way. Ask your customer: “What are the day to day challenges faced in your business?” Listen to their answer. You’re the Industry 4.0 and IIoT solutions expert but the customer knows far more about the challenges their operations face.

Manufacturers do not want to receive a sales pitch. They want to understand how your technologies can address their business challenges from day one.


What’s next on our innovation journey?

With new products under development and new customers confirmed, we’re gearing up for a busy 2020 implementing Industry 4.0 and IIoT solutions in factories across the globe.


About Facteon

An international designer, builder and innovator of world-class production equipment. As a long established and widely respected organisation, we operate on the forward edge of smart manufacturing, robotics, data science, machine learning technology and Industrial IoT solutions. We aspire to cultivate a smart manufacturing ecosystem in which machinery and software offerings interact seamlessly to maximise operational performance.