How to ‘change the game’ through digitalisation

Dr Dominik Rohrmus (head of the Manufacturing Systems research group at Siemens in Germany and Managing Director of Labs Network Industrie 4.0) recently visited Australia to discuss current developments and challenges in Industry 4.0.

According to Dr Rohrmus, manufacturers must invest in their operations—in digitalisation and advanced technology—to transform their business and compete on the global stage.

“Manufacturers must go digital; it is not an option. Digitalisation is a game changer,” said Dr Rohrmus.

“The benefits that SMEs can expect as a result of the adoption of Industry 4.0 are vast. Through digitalisation, manufacturers are able to increase their productivity, which really pays dividends economically.”

Digitalisation is a game changer

Dr Rohrmus offered a range of practical advice for Australian SMEs looking to digitalise their operations.

Understand What Digitalisation Means for Your Business

Digitalisation is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach—what works for one manufacturer, may not be applicable to the next.

“When adopting digitalisation, you must ask: what does it mean for me? Each SME exists because it has a specific market, a specific product, a specific business perspective. So, you must understand what digitalisation means for your business. It might be platform-based economies, a product as a service, or power by the hour,” said Dr Rohrmus.

Seek Out Expert Advice

“Discuss your digitalisation options with the industry experts that investigate Industry 4.0 on a daily basis. Check with government-run organisations and centres of excellence. Trust your universities,” said Dr Rohrmus.

Understand Your Role in the Global Supply Chain

The majority of global trade is comprised of intermediate goods or vertical specialisation, rather than finished products. As such, Dr Rohrmus explained that understanding, and then solidifying, your role in the global supply chain through digitalisation is vital.

“Most SMEs are part of a supply chain. So, consider the expectations of your supply chain. Understand what your contribution to the supply chain will be in the future. This might be as simple as paperless production, adopting an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, or moving to the cloud,” said Dr Rohrmus.

Implement Lean Manufacturing Processes

Lean manufacturing is underpinned by standardising processes and creating a culture of continuous improvement through monitoring equipment, output, and a variety of other metrics. As such, according to Dr Rohrmus, “Lean manufacturing processes are essential as they are already optimised for Industry 4.0. Think about your manufacturing processes, and continuously ask if you have the right process in place.”

Collaborate with Trusted Partners

Dr Rohrmus urged SMEs to collaborate with trusted partners to create high value solutions for customers. “Digitalisation and the internet are an automatically global concept, and complex topic. So, it is impossible that you—by yourself—can control and handle every aspect. From a cost and complexity perspective, you need to cooperate and partner with trusted organisations to share knowledge and technology.”

About Dr Dominik Rohrmus

Dr Dominik Rohrmus joined Siemens in Germany as the head of the Manufacturing Systems research group in 2005. This research group is responsible for shop-floor equipment development and the standardisation of all Siemens factories worldwide. In 2009, Dr Rohrmus founded Siemen’s company-wide program for sustainable, energy efficient production engineering. Since 2016, Dr Rohrmus has also been the Managing Director of Labs Network Industrie 4.0 (LNI4.0).

About Labs Network Industrie 4.0

Established by an alliance of major companies, industry associations, policymakers and researchers, Labs Network Industrie 4.0 (LNI4.0) is a non-profit and pre-competitive German association. The goal of LNI4.0 is to support the pioneering work of SMEs in the area of digitalisation.

“LNI4.0 is like an NGO – it is absolutely mutual and agnostic, and supported by the major players within German industry,” said Dr Rohrmus.

“LNI4.0 members can experience and trial new technologies, Industry 4.0 innovations, and business models in test centers, and review their economic feasibility prior to market launch. It is a free, low barrier way to access digitalisation technology.”

In addition, LNI4.0 collaborates with the Plattform Industrie 4.0 and the Standardisation Council Industrie 4.0 (SCI4.0) to ensure the compatibility of competing products and solutions. The collaboration of the three organisations helps deliver a responsive process of strategy and conception, testing and standardisation throughout Germany.