Could industry 4.0 extend Lean’s lifespan?

When Industry 4.0 arrived with all its bells and whistles, many would have thought “haha, this is the long awaited next big thing to replace Lean”. Now, as the time goes by, it seems more and more that Lean is regarded as a mandatory prerequisite to Industry 4.0, which in return could unexpectedly extend Lean’s lifespan!

Early on, promoters of Industry 4.0 warned about the necessary prerequisites prior to go for the fourth Industrial Revolution and reaping its full benefits. Very soon readiness assessments where proposed, embedding questions about leanness and efficiency.

People my age remember well when computing was getting big and more computers arrived into the companies, the popular saying then went “Garbage in, garbage out.” It was a cynical conclusion when computerizing failed or a blunt warning when not preparing data, information and  processes before turning them into any IT system.

Recently it is Bill Gates’ quote putting it more politely that is popular and frequently cited: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

With the repeated warnings about a certain degree of leanness required before going for the Digital Transformation or the 4th Industrial Revolution, Lean is becoming nothing less than a requirement, and this will probably extend it’s lifespan in an unexpected manner, at least for the ones expecting the next big thing, after Lean.

It does not even mean that Lean has to be ditched once robots, cyber-physical systems or artificial intelligence has been installed. I am myself convinced that all these new technologies will be (already are?) available to almost every competitor, but the only way to outperform one’s challengers is the better use of the assets and leaner processes and infrastructures.

Any thoughts?

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

2 thoughts on “Could industry 4.0 extend Lean’s lifespan?

  1. Hi Chris,

    When it comes down to “KNOWING/UNDERSTANDING” what “BEING LEAN” really means, it’s a topic that’s up-for-grabs. Depending on who you speak to, you’ll definitely get a different explanation. Those who believe it’s merely a matter of eliminating all forms of waste from an organization’s operations, are only partially correct. And following this line of thinking will likely provide notable benefits when it comes to undertaking a digital transformation… or any transformation for that matter.

    That said, there’s really a BIGGER and MORE SIGNIFICANT side to TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING that carries SIGNIFICANTLY more WEIGHT in terms of the potential MULT


  2. IPLIER EFFECT that TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING is likely to have. Because TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING is carried out at the ALL LEVELS of an organization, but especially at the overall SYSTEM LEVEL, the ability to engage in the sorts of rapid/adaptive problem-solving and accelerated organizational learning (at the individual, team/group, departmental. and enterprise-wide levels) that are required in order to maximize the benefits associated with any technology implementation(s) are only achieved through the practice of TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING in a HOLISTIC/SYSTEMS-THINKING CONTEXT.

    Ergo, in any organization that is already practicing TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING, their digital transformation (ala Industry 4.0) is a given.


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