Ops 4.0: The Human Factor—Recognizing the capability challenge

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In the first post of his new blog, Markus Hammer asks how companies are doing in preparing their people for Ops 4.0.

The Ops 4.0 revolution is well under way. Big data, advanced analytics, additive manufacturing, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence: Collectively, these technologies promise to transform business operations, raising quality, unleashing new levels of flexibility and boosting productivity by up to 20 percent.

At most companies the revolution is still in its early phases. But new approaches and technologies are already generating results across sectors (from process industries to consumer goods) and throughout the value chain (for example, in product development, procurement, manufacturing and the supply chain).

Given the sophisticated hardware and smart software involved, it is easy to think about Ops 4.0 as a purely technological challenge. But doing that could be a major mistake. Hard-won experience has shown that people make the difference when organizations attempt to transform themselves.

Ops 4.0 will make entirely new demands on people. It will call for new and highly specialized capabilities, especially in areas like software development, data analytics, and artificial intelligence technologies. And it will also have a significant impact on the broader workforce, bringing machines and data into practically every role.

In the coming months, we'll be exploring the human challenges of Operations 4.0, looking in detail at the shifts in mind-sets, capabilities and culture that will underpin the success of organizations' digital efforts. We'll also look at the systems, programs and tools that companies are using to develop their people.

Markus Hammer, based in McKinsey's Vienna office, is senior manager of learning for the global Operations Practice.

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