Industry 4.0: hype or reality?

The current state of play in Flemish manufacturing

Industrial leaders in Flanders are already digitising essential functions within their internal vertical operations processes, as well as with their horizontal partners along the value chain. They’re also looking to enhance their product portfolio with digital functionalities and introducing innovative, data-based services. They have high expectations with regards the cost and efficiency improvements Industry 4.0 can bring.

The key findings we explore in this report – the first of its kind to be carried out in Belgium and developed with Flanders MAKE - confirm that no industrial company can afford to ignore the fundamental changes that Industry 4.0 will generate. At the end, we provide a pragmatic, step-by-step blueprint for how industrial companies can successfully build a digital enterprise.


Industry 4.0 is already transforming businesses

Belgian manufacturing has adopted Industry 4.0; 

93% of participants acknowledged the transformation implied by Industry 4.0 for their business.

Eight-three percent of surveyed companies are actively looking to translate Industry 4.0 and implement it into their business and/or operations strategy, but not necessarily under the Industry 4.0 umbrella.

Half of the organisations we spoke with have already identified their main strategic action points and are in the process of implementation. Asked about their current position compared to competitors, 86% said they’re at least on par with, if not ahead of, the competition with regards Industry 4.0 concepts.

Seemingly, overall, respondents are quite confident about their maturity level and are not afraid of the future.

Do you already have a strategic plan in place to introduce new technologies into your daily operations?
Do you already have a strategic plan in place to introduce new technologies into your daily operations?
Two man wearing safety glasses at industry site

The potential to drive significant performance improvements

All survey respondents anticipate significant gains from the implementation of Industry 4.0 initiatives on their bottom line. On average, companies expect to reduce operational costs by 2.6 % per annum, while increasing efficiency by 2.4% annually. This is completely in line with global expectations from a cost and efficiency perspective.

Cost savings can be achieved by implementing smart manufacturing initiatives. For example, companies are moving to integrated planning and scheduling for manufacturing. Such systems combine data from within the enterprise – from sensors all the way through to ERP systems – with information from horizontal value chain partners, like inventory levels or changes in customer demand.

Integrated shop floor planning improves asset utilisation and product throughput time. Another example is predictive maintenance of key assets, which uses predictive algorithms to optimise repair and maintenance schedules and to improve asset uptime.

"At Picanol weaving machines, we see a high impact of Industry 4.0 on our product, our processes and our people. To better respond to the specific needs of our clients, we work on making our processes more flexible by combining both our product and process development skills. Although it might seem counterintuitive at first sight, we are also focusing on standardisation. By building in customisation as late as possible in the process, we are able to deliver what the client needs at an acceptable cost."

Geert Ostyn - VP weaving machines - Picanol
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People unlock the value of transformation

Humans lie at the heart of Industry 4.0 transformation. Most companies are mainly concerned about the people dimension of Industry 4.0, rather than the technological dimension. With regards hurdles identified in our survey, the top two concern people, followed by business dimension, and only then technological constraints.

Every survey respondent expects there to be a huge impact on human capital. Both blue and white collar jobs will be affected, mainly due to a shift in required skills and competences. The biggest challenge companies currently face is a lack of digital talent.

They all have talented people, but as new technologies and applications flourish and at speed, they need more digital expertise to be able to transform existing capabilities into new ones. And it’s not a one-off exercise, life-long learning will be crucial.

Tabs for People - Busines - Technology
Where are the biggest challenges or inhibitors for building operations capabilities in your company?
Where are the biggest challenges or inhibitors for building operations capabilities in your company?

Blueprint for digital success


Blueprint for digital success

Contact us

Peter Vermeire

Peter Vermeire

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 493 51 87 28

Johan Van der Straeten

Johan Van der Straeten

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 474 48 47 55

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