Ops 4.0: The Human Factor—Building Ops 4.0 capabilities

Companies are only just beginning to address the capability-building challenges presented by new digital technologies in Ops 4.0. Our survey data suggest that only about three in ten organizations have identified their current Ops 4.0 capability gaps, and just one in ten have implemented a plan to address them.

In previous blogs, we have discussed the need for a systematic approach to the definition of future capability requirements and the identification of skills shortages. Once that’s done, how does an organization go about filling the gaps?

Ops 4.0 will require companies to develop or acquire more brand-new skills more rapidly than they are used to doing. Many companies have no track record of activity in areas like artificial intelligence or additive manufacturing techniques, for example, even though they recognize that their competitors are already starting to adopt these technologies.

This fast-changing environment presents challenges for two well-established capability-building strategies. Companies may struggle to obtain staff with the right skills on the open market, since people with right combinations of capabilities will be extremely rare. And they may also struggle to acquire appropriate training from 3rd party providers, as a market for appropriate training programs has yet to develop.

The availability of experienced personnel and established skills development programs will change over time, as industry 4.0 maturity increases. Right now, however, if companies want these new skills, they must largely build them in-house. That might seem a daunting challenge, but in our view, it is also a significant opportunity. Offering staff the opportunity to develop their own skills doesn’t just fill critical capability gaps, it is also a powerful way of attracting and retaining talent. In one McKinsey survey, 68 percent of workers cited “training and development” as the workplace policy that mattered most to them.

Extensive research and experience has shown that adults learn best through a balanced combination of classroom or self-directed learning, hands-on experience and on-the-job coaching and support. An Industry 4.0 transformation will inevitably involve considerable experimentation, as companies explore digital opportunities, test new approaches and refine new processes to suit their needs. This environment provides an ideal platform for capability-building, giving staff the opportunity to learn and grow with the organization.

To make the most of the opportunity, however, organizations will need to design and implement learning journeys for their people. Those journeys must address both the technical and cultural aspects of work in a digitally-enabled world.

An Ops 4.0 learning journey might begin, for example, with a “Go and See” visit to a high-performing organization, or Digital Capability Center, so staff can experience the power and potential of Ops 4.0 at first hand. The primary aim of these early interventions should be to generate enthusiasm and engagement, although they also help to familiarize staff with the tools and approaches they will use in their own roles. By providing a suitable pre-learning experience, often delivered via online learning platforms, companies can capitalize on that engagement, allowing their people to find out more about Ops 4.0 methods and technologies.

Over the following months, staff will participate in a structured program that intersperses “boot-camps” on specific topics and approaches with opportunities to reinforce new knowledge in the workplace, first by shadowing senior colleagues and then by working on their own Ops 4.0 projects. In upcoming editions of this blog, we’ll look in more detail about the different stages of a structured learning journey, and what companies need in order to take control of their own Ops 4.0 capability-building efforts.

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