As we move closer to digitalization and a true ‘Industry 4.0,’ it’s clear that factories globally need to become digital, whether on a small scale or a large scale.

It’s a difficult step to take, especially for smaller companies, towards a smart digital factory. However, it’s a necessary part of moving towards Industry 4.0.

What is the digital factory?

The digital factory forms the foundation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or ‘Industry 4.0’. It’s a factory that incorporates artificial intelligence, blockchain, automation and other tech to become almost entirely smart.

By using digital factories, companies can ensure that manufacturing is safer, more efficient, and over all more self-sustaining. This is, of course, more important in current times, when COVID-19 halted the production of many factories globally.

The digital factory is a key leader in digital transformation due to the integral nature of autonomous and self-sufficient factories. These factories need to be able to support themselves, without the necessity of human intervention. While humans will still play a key part in the functioning of the factory, it will be from a more supervisory role, reducing reliance on human labour.

This is where it excels: through the ability to self-support. When crises such as COVID-19 hit, there is a way for the factory to continue functioning without compromising the health of workers.

How companies can move towards their own digital factories

Taking the first step towards a digital factory can be difficult. This is because it often requires a reshuffling of systems, technologies, and priorities. There is a notable difference between the traditional company and the digital one, and this is visible largely when we try to move towards it.

Sometimes, executives face resistance when it comes to digitalisation. It’s natural that some people are set in traditional ways and find it difficult to move towards a more digital way of thinking. This is where digital strategy comes in.

Moving towards a better digital strategy means implementing better procedures, plans and approaches. It can also mean deconstructing pre-existing company processes and moving towards agile work. This eases the company into the process and ensures that there is a structure in place to support digitalisation.

In a podcast with McKinsey, Joao Dias points out that, “Another client of mine, a much smaller organization, a very lean private-equity-owned institution, they ended up creating a digital factory that is very similar to the organization itself. It’s also very lean, very small, located in one of the floors of the main building. You can see how the factories end up mimicking the organizations that they belong to.”

The size and scalability of the digital factory depends largely on the company. That’s okay. Digitalisation is unique to the individual company. There are a variety of different ways that companies can implement digital factories, and each will be different to the company.

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