Project management in Industry 4.0

industry 4.0

Project management in Industry 4.0 is destined to play a key role. In this article we will try to explain why.

The concept of Industry 4.0 was born in Germany, in 2011, during the Hannover Fair. This so-called fourth industrial revolution introduces what has been called the “smart factory“. It is a factory where cyber-physical systems monitor the physical processes of the factory and are able to make decentralized decisions.

The basic error that involves project management in Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 therefore leads to a new industrial automation that integrates innovative technologies in order to improve working conditions, so increasing productivity.

All this is however closely correlated with the Internet of Things, the Cyber-Physical System, information and communication technology, Enterprise Architecture, and Enterprise Integration .

Although project management is a well-known challenge in Industry 4.0, this aspect of global network connection is sometimes ignored. Most studies, in fact, focus only on technological aspects.

As you can easily understand this is an important error that can lead to visions disconnected from reality.

The importance of this aspect in Industry 4.0 is evident. Consider the fact that networks are growing and the Internet is used as an important source of information and communication – sometimes primary. Moreover, virtual representations of the real world are created and information systems are increasingly being developed. In short, we reach levels where these systems are able to act independently and even make their own decisions.

Managing an innovation environment like Industry 4.0 therefore requires a creative and completely new way of thinking.

How the processes have changed with the advent of Industry 4.0 and what repercussions they have had on Project Management

For half a decade, the concept of Industry 4.0 has had time to spread throughout the business and industrial world. We have already discussed this topoc in the article on disruptive technologies.

Production processes  within companies have changed during this period and continue to develop following this direction.

The advantages of digitization are obviously innumerable. They include simplified data management, more opportunities to create less expensive and more customized solutions, automation of labor-intensive processes and / or the introduction of measures that simplify these processes.

Thanks to digitization, benefits that are achievable both in conventional manufacturing companies as well as in service companies can be obtained.

The theme of Industry 4.0 is therefore always present in project management. In fact, the management of the most important projects, in this historical period, concerns companies that are going through digitalisation (for some advice you can read here) and must be able to manage this process.

All this is also part of the project managers‘ tasks, who are interested and “affected” by digitalisation. It will therefore be their job to organize their internal structures and their work using those digital products.
the 4.0 industry

Digitization in Project Management

Project management must respond faster and faster and operate more proactively within the digital world.

But, in concrete, what does this mean for a project manager?

First, we all know that most, if not all, project managers use a smartphone. This allows them to have constant access to e-mails, to Internet, to instant messaging services, to cameras, plans and reports.

All company statements can be reviewed directly during a meeting, for example, or while waiting at the airport during a business trip.

Has the appropriate plan been received by a team member? Has the technical sheet been sent to the supervisory office? Can all this information be solved and controlled directly thanks to digitization? Yes of course!

Some examples of how the Project Manager’s work changes with the advent of Industry 4.0 and digitization

Let’s take the example of a project manager working in the construction sector. He can use a tablet and write reports during site inspections. He can thus take pictures of a damaged or incorrectly labeled door or cable and then insert them directly into the report together with the relevant annotations.

In this way, in essence, it is possible to generate a site inspection report in an extremely simple, fast and effective way. It is also possible to send it immediately to all interested parties.

Digitization therefore saves time and…a large amount of telephone calls.

Digitization also concerns project management platforms, which have become common in many areas of project management.

 The advantages of the Digitized Project Management Platforms

Indeed, there are many different suppliers of these platforms and it is also possible to create personalized ones.

Such platforms can be individually created or customized for each project and designed to include different functions based on the activity or project.

Information such as plans, meeting reports, photographs, contracts, construction plans, invoices, data sheets, specifications, drawings, and correspondence can be stored here.

Moreover, each user can receive information when a new report is published within a specific category.

Invitations to meetings can also be sent via project platforms, which can therefore act as planning tools.

Meeting reports and project plans can be uploaded and can also be annotated, authorized, and modified without the need of pen and paper.

You can always determine which is the most recent version of the plan and see how many changes have been made and by whom.

For sure paper will continue to play an important role in project management. In many cases, it is simply inevitable and advisable to also print something in order to allow project participants to write notes.

This also allows to compare the drawings or read the printed versions of the reports because nobody is willing to spend the entire working day staring at a screen.

However, it is certainly true to say that digitization simplifies many things and will become increasingly indispensable in the future, also and especially in project management.

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