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People or Tech or both - what drives Industry 4.0?

It is the 15. June 2015 and I am nervous. Today is my first day as Managing Director of the Hugo Boss factory in Izmir with 4150 people. I know lots of the management colleagues since the inauguration of this plant in 1999 and I respect them very much. I have seen them grow from a single suit production line into a multi-product plant with lots of experts and lots of knowledge about Lean and Kaizen and Six Sigma and TQM aso. And I know also that this will not be enough to stay relevant, to have an important role in the supplier network of Hugo Boss.

I had seen a factory of the future from Siemens in late 2014 and deeply embraced how technology can have an impact on the success of a manufacturing plant. I knew since then that this combination of smart people and smart technology would be a leapfrog move in the output of a factory, no matter the industry or the country. And I knew that I wanted to transform this already very successful apparel plant into such a Smart Factory.

When explaining the plan to the CBO, he told me that if, after fulfilling all orders in time, in cost and in quality, I would have some energy and budget left to start that endeavor, he would not hinder me. In other words, as a professional optimist, I took this as a Go J

With introducing the strategy to the local management for sure some thought that I’m crazy and should first learn everything about the achievements of the last 15 years. As passionate as I am about the future, I didn’t spend too much time on history and instead thought about how to change the structure, the hierarchy, the technology on the shop floor and in the offices as fast as possible. And here comes the quote in to play that I made yesterday from the head of finance: “You cannot win Turkish people over the head but only over the heart.”

I was so intrigued by technology and by this concept of Industry 4.0 and its digital twin. All these fascinating tools, the hardware, the software, the ultimate digital transparency. Getting rid of retrospective meetings and debating about the quality results from yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter. Instead entering the world of real time data, making decisions based on information coming right now from the floor. Ultimately becoming a better Manager simply by making better decisions.

And because I was so convinced about this concept, I could not even think a second about resistance against it. Yes, of course I knew that change management is important when introducing a new strategy into a mature and established culture. And of course, I had this in mind when creating the three years plan for this transformation. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, the famous sentence from Peter Drucker - every top manager knows this. Not everyone like it though.

Now the point that made this strategy fly was the one mentioned before. When people in the organization, no matter managers or employees, felt with their heart that their life with technology would be better than without, they started to back the activities. From early resistance towards full engagement. It was the deep understanding of their life, their emotions and their to do’s that would make initiatives work. Not when Managers or IT Nerds would understand the UX/UI of the software, but only when the shop floor employees would understand it, then we would go live. Consistently every two weeks because of the Sprint Planning of SCRUM. We could argue that all companies claim customer centricity for their products and services but in my experience the interpretation of that claim is quite stretched.

And then, five years and loads of successful strategic moves later (also a couple of not so successful ones, to be fair), when leaving the position and the country, I received a very special gift: The self portrait of van Gogh, made out of the brush material of a Cutter, transformed from fine art students that we invited every summer to create objects out of our trash. I have put it into the entrance of our house as a reminder of many special moments – and because it demonstrates the energy that technically amplified teams can develop when the strategy is clear, the space for innovation is given and the strong desire to be successful is fully established. Then Industry 4.0 with all its facets is fully implemented and the factory has become SMART.

What about Your’s?

1 Comment

Betty van Loon
Betty van Loon
Jun 15, 2021

An exciting and inspiring story because it focuses on people rather than technology.

We should all strive to win our team with their hearts and thus secure their willingness to perform. Thanks for sharing your expirience!

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