Quality 4.0 holds value for manufacturers, though uptake remains low

27 August 2019 Consulting.us 2 min. read

Nearly two-thirds of manufacturers think the application of advanced digital technologies to quality management (Quality 4.0) will significantly affect their operations by 2024. However, only 16% of global respondents said their company has begun implementing Quality 4.0, according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey in collaboration with ASQ and the German Association for Quality (DGQ).

Only 20%, meanwhile, said their company has started planning for implementation, while 63% haven’t reached the planning stage. European companies are doing better, with 21% starting to adopt Quality 4.0, versus 6% of US firms.

Quality 4.0 can be an important differentiator for manufacturers, lowering defect and failure rates, while also providing competitive advantage through higher customer satisfaction.

The survey found talent shortage was respondents’ main impediment to adoption. “Notably, participants regard soft skills – such as change management, communication, and teaming – as the most critical skills for success, even as they acknowledge the need to improve their analytics and big data skills," said David Ryeson, a BCG partner and coauthor of the report.

Importance of quality at each value chain stage

Technology, is as such, one piece of a broader transformation puzzle focusing on people and skills. In terms of technology, predictive analytics, sensors and tracking, and electronic feedback loops were tagged as the most important tech for driving impact. More than 60% of respondents said that predictive analytics would significantly affect quality performance and bottom lines by 2024.

Few manufacturing sector respondents said their company has the right people to run a Quality 4.0 initiative (17%), or a clear strategy for attracting relevant talent (5%). Furthermore, only 27% said their company has clearly articulated its quality goals and objectives to all layers of the organization.

Though frontrunners (firms that have started industry 4.0 implementations) and followers (the rest) both cite shortage of digital skills and talent as the number one challenge they face, their next most pressing concerns diverge. Frontrunners’ next three most important challenges involve tech and data, while followers point to strategic and cultural challenges. According to BCG, this points to the fact that tech and data challenges are more visible to firms further along the 4.0 journey, while strategy and culture issues may be what is blocking implementation in the first place for “follower” firms.