Industry 4.0… Are you ready?
Industry 4.0 is the termed coined for the new trend of automation and data integration in the manufacturing sector. Industry 4.0 has been framed around the next generation factory and is viewed as the fourth industrial revolution. The premise of Industry 4.0 embraces the “Smart Factory” concept where machines, automation, physical systems, data and the Internet of Things combine to embrace the digitization of manufacturing processes.
Industry 4.0 is being driven by many disruptors that include the vast rise in data, computing power, connectivity, the emergence of analytics and business intelligence, human and machine interaction and the improvements in transferring data to the physical, an example of which is the ever-increasing use of 3D printing.
A recent report published by BDO, based on the findings of a survey of close to 1,000 entrepreneurs on how Canadian small and mid‑sized manufacturers are incorporating digital technologies into their businesses, highlights some interesting facts:
- Almost 40% of Canadian small and mid-sized manufacturers have implemented Industry 4.0 projects, including 3% that have fully digitized their production, while another 17% are in the planning phase.
- Taking the plunge pays. Digital adopters are enjoying increased productivity, lower costs, and improved product quality. In fact, they are almost twice as likely as non-adopters to forecast annual revenue growth of 10% or more over the next three years.
- On average, digital adopters have invested over $250,000 in their projects over the past two years. Companies that have invested the most report that it is easier for them to implement technology in their business. They also indicate an increased readiness to face the coming digital revolution and improved growth prospects.
- A third of adopters found the implementation process to be challenging. They cited a lack of skilled personnel, excessive costs and unclear benefits as the top barriers to implementing digital technologies.
The Changing Face of Retail
While Industry 4.0 is still somewhat in its infancy in North America, experts agree that the principles and drivers are worth a look if you are in the manufacturing sector. According to BDO conclusions, four out of ten small and mid-sized manufacturers in Canada have already begun their digital transformation. Those that have adopted these technologies have reaped impressive rewards, including higher growth, improved productivity, and better product quality.
To learn more about Industry 4.0 and the BDC Canadian survey, please visit bdc.ca/industrystudy
Part I: The Way We Were
The concept of a bazaar or marketplace has been around for thousands of years – a wide-open shopping area that brings together merchants, wares, and customers. As societies advanced, so too did these gathering areas. A modern-day marketplace with generous square footage, several amenities, bright signs, and common areas seemed like a slam-dunk. Thus, the idea of a “mall” took root and they started showing up all over the country.
The traditional mall has an anchor tenant plus a plethora of smaller stores flanking it. Since it was also a natural gathering place for announcements, appearances, and social events, the popularity of malls soared in the late 20th century. There was really no mystery about it; people needed a physical place to buy their goods. That was good enough to get them through the doors.
Up until the late 1990s, the shopping process was straightforward. You could either walk into a store or order from a catalogue. The big retailers all had them and it was all anyone could want. That is until the internet shook retail to its foundations.
This impact was not felt immediately. The virtual tools had to be built from scratch to support e-commerce. In addition, a great deal of trust had to be built before people were willing to submit and use their bank accounts and credit cards online. Even without the ability to shop, it was still crucial for retailers to have a presence online.
The web added a new dimension to retail, namely the customer’s ability to do the early stages of shopping (i.e. research) at home. The practices of window-shopping, browsing, and incidental purchases began to ebb. The typical customer was more knowledgeable and demanding than ever before. Some places kept up with the changing dynamics and others did not.
It did not take long before the “display and forget” way of doing retail was not going to cut it anymore. By 2010, retail conquerors from the past several decades began to fracture. Stores such as Sears, The Bay, and Zellers began to report dismal numbers. In the years that followed, these companies either folded, scaled back, or shook up their executive suites.
The reluctance to embrace technology notwithstanding, the underlying reason why these once invincible giants faltered is because they maintained the status quo of the customer experience and how customers are perceived.
Those that are thriving did the exact opposite. We, humans, are not soulless, machine-like drones. We enjoy feeling good about ourselves and accomplishing something special. If a store can provide this for the customer, the customer will leave the store feeling as if they’ve been on an adventure. Better yet, they’ll be back.
The Changing Face of Retail
Part II: The Current Snapshot
In Part I, we discussed the importance of the shopping process. That is, there needs to be a reason besides inventory that makes people visit your store. Most things we shop for can be obtained from several sources, so why shop at one place over another?
Shopping must be inviting. That is, the person must leave with something besides their purchase, such as an experience. This experience should persist from pre-purchase (browsing, research) to post-purchase (customer service) and include ease, value, and selection. Ignoring any part of this chain can cause customers to open up their browsers and fulfill their needs elsewhere.
Starting around 1970 shopping malls sprouted all over the continent, outpacing population growth by about a factor of 2. As a result, the United States leads the world in Shopping Centre gross leasable area (GLA) per capita (23.5) while Canada is in second place (16.4). It’s natural that with such an abundance of GLA, some centers will vanish in the face of online shopping. In other words, store closings will not necessarily result in a retail apocalypse. Rather, it’s a consequence of “over-retailing”, a situation that was simply not sustainable.
During the 1990’s, it was clear which malls were changing with the times and which were not. Simply having an accessible gathering place with a dedicated parking lot wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Humans are innately lethargic and attracted to shiny things. Malls which understood that live on and those that did not shutter. In fact, the latter has been chronicled on an interesting website called deadmalls.com. If you check it out, don’t be surprised if you come across the mall you grew up with.
All is not lost, though. Despite the web’s ascension, it cannot do it all. The service industry is still transacted best in person. For instance, since 2005, sales at restaurants and bars have grown twice as fast as another retail spending. Perhaps malls would do better today if they replaced department store anchors in favour of food, entertainment, and fitness options.
There are certain experiences that will never go out of style, such as bargains, slick-looking stores, friendly people, instant gratification, hassle-free returns, and getting out of the house. There will always be a place for stores where people can come in to see and touch the wares, especially when they are offered something that shopping online cannot, such as expertise (e.g. hardware stores), a culture (e.g. Mountain Equipment Co-op), or the ability to try something out (e.g. sporting goods, footwear).
Think of the web as another piece of the shopping process. If you can ease someone’s burden by displaying a comprehensive and accurate inventory, they will remember you. Better yet, they will be your customer.
School of Sustainable Design Engineering and Summerside, a perfect match
The City of Summerside and UPEI School of Sustainable Design Engineering have been partnering over the past number of years to mutually benefit each other’s organizations through the University’s’ Community Design Program. The City identifies an engineering challenge and engages UPEI Engineering students to develop real-world solutions to those challenges while at the same time engaging in experiential learning. Some past projects include a plow blade adapter for use on the city’s plowing equipment, an automated clock winder for City Hall’s historic clock and in 2017 a project to design a sustainable energy booth that demonstrates the renewable energy aspects that have been incorporated into the utility grid of Summerside. The goal is to develop an interactive and educational unity that will raise
awareness about the benefits of renewable energy sources.
UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design is a facility that is vast in knowledge and talent that can provide direct and lasting benefits to all sectors of the business community. Through their Industrial Partnership Program, UPEI collaborates utilizing all resources including the technical capabilities and talent to address real-world engineering challenges while at the same time providing practical experience for students and faculty alike. To learn more about UPEI School of Sustainable Design Engineering, visit http://www.upei.ca/engineering/