Ops 4.0: The Human Factor—Planning for tomorrow’s roles

In the first two parts of this series, we asked you about your organizations’ situation with regard to the human challenges that surround the transition to Operations 4.0, and your most important needs. It is clear from your feedback that working in a digitized and highly connected world will require a broad combination of skills. Moreover, as the latest research from the McKinsey Global Institute underscores, Ops 4.0 promises to accelerate a shift that’s already well under way in the mix of skills that organizations need.

We were not entirely surprised that the most urgent capability gaps our respondents reported seeing in their organizations were in “softer” skills, such as lean management and change implementation, rather than in specific technologies such as robotics or the Internet of Things. That’s consistent with what we have seen in many organizations, where people struggle with the mind-set changes that are necessary in order for new technologies to fulfill their promise. It’s also clear that companies vary greatly in their readiness for this new world, with the vast majority of our respondents saying that they are unsure of which capabilities Ops 4.0 requires, or which ones their organization needs to build.

When we talk to companies about their Ops 4.0 capability requirements, one point that comes up a lot is the challenge of dealing with the unknown. Many organizations are only at the early stages of digital transformation. They may have little idea today, for example, how they will use artificial intelligence or advanced analytics in their operations five or ten years from now. And if you don’t know what you are going to do, it’s hard to predict the mix of capabilities your organization will require.

That’s quite understandable: while the impact of Ops 4.0 will ultimately be revolutionary, organizations are taking an evolutionary approach. It will take time to evaluate, develop, pilot and scale up new approaches. New capability requirements will evolve in the same way. You don’t need everything today, but you do need to ensure that the pace and progress of your transformation isn’t hampered by a shortage of talent and capabilities.

That calls for a four-stage approach:

  1. Understand the emerging themes. As your organization creates its Ops 4.0 roadmap, it should define the associated roles and capability requirements. Planning to introduce predictive maintenance across five sites in the next three years? How many specialists will be required to build and manage the necessary analysis systems? What will maintenance teams need to know as they adopt the new approach? Your roadmap is likely to be highly dynamic: both its pace and direction will change as different approaches are tested and new ones emerge. Capability requirements should be continually adapted and updated too.
  2. Define talent profiles. Ops 4.0 personnel will need a combination of capabilities. They’ll need expertise in your organization’s specific domain, the ability to solve problems and execute continuous improvement activities, and the ability to work with data and advanced digital tools. For the projects on your roadmap, you should define the ideal skill matrix for the people involved.
  3. Map your current resources. Many of the most important Ops 4.0 skills may already exist within your organization. A business that is already lean will have people skilled in problem-solving and the use of lean tools. A manufacturing company will have automation specialists. By cataloguing the capabilities of your operations personnel and cross-checking against the talent profiles you’ve already created, you can identify and quantify capability gaps.
  4. Address capability gaps. Now your organization has given itself the power to act on its capability needs. The previous steps will have revealed the specific new capabilities required by particular personnel to meet its Ops 4.0 transformation requirements. Acquiring those capabilities will require a combination of actions. Companies will have to adapt their talent search, recruitment, training and career development approaches. The best ways to do those things will be subject of future blogs in this series.
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