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The future of Industry 4.0

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Author: Marcos Kauffman, Director of the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) at Coventry

We still have a long way to go to fully realise the value of Industry 4.0 which has many potential advantages for a business. Within the integrated value chains that Industry 4.0 encourages, IP is becoming a primary means for appropriating value and securing a return on your investment in innovation. As such, a tailored IP strategy is a cornerstone of your Industry 4.0 implementation. You can design it to account for differences between business areas and business models, generating a portfolio of IP assets, each with the necessary protection mechanisms and strategies for commercialization or sharing.

That IP is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers in collaborative settings is undisputed. It is leading to an alignment of manufacturing with other high-value Industries where technology development relies on complex collaboration and cross-licensing of IP rights. However, another challenge to manufacturers is that, particularly in the manufacturing value chain, the practices surrounding IP use and commercialization are somewhat immature and IP ownership can be seen as a drawback.

Recognizing the need for change and knowing when to take action is key. Often the symptoms show themselves long after the problem has taken hold: by the time an organization realizes a particular area or process is in trouble or, in this case, when your Industry 4.0 investment gives signs that there is little value to the business, the problems are already deeper than you think.

When this happens, improvement and transformation have to be made a priority. Figuring out what you need to do and where you need to be, can be one of the most difficult elements of transformation because it requires genuinely creative operational and commercial thinking, which can be a scarce resource.

Having a team prepared to take responsibility for implementing transformation is one thing, but never underestimate the importance of having a leader who knows what qualities are required, which ones they have and how to fill any gaps there might be.

The complexities of Industry 4.0 implementation across the value chain could mean that a change in one organization may have an impact on other businesses across the network. To succeed, your Industry 4.0 journey will have to be truly integrated and look at all parts as a whole, especially people and the commercial dynamics present in each area of the value chain.

Finally, change is normally slow and organic. Transformation, however, often involves getting five years of change done in six to twelve months, often leapfrogging a lot of the organic change. It is important to build this pace expectation into your Industry 4.0 journey and hopefully get your business on the right path to profit from Industry 4.0.

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