IR 4.0: Where to Begin With?

IR 4.0 journey needs proper planning and long-term commitment to reap the maximum benefits

 We hear of Industry 4.0 nearly every day with many promoting conferences, seminars, roadshows and trade exhibitions being held as well. The common messages delivered in these events highlight the importance and benefits of Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and smart factory. Solution providers are now actively promoting their solutions and robotic machines, government is promoting their policies and incentive programmes and trade associations are sharing information on how manufacturers are benefiting from it.

SMEs are beginning to learn and be more knowledgeable about Industry 4.0. Yet, if SMEs are interested in the Industry 4.0 journey, where should they start? Who do they go to? What are the preparations to be done? Below, I share some of the recommendation after a number of interactions with the stakeholders ie government, service and technology providers, trade associations and SMEs of course.


Most SMEs will think that Industry 4.0 is all about technology. Well, partly yes but it is people who runs the technology. SMEs embarking into the Industry 4.0 journey must realise that it is not a single trip to success or a short-term effort. It needs proper planning and long-term commitment to reap the maximum benefits.

We will need a DRIVER to start a journey. Who in the company has the knowledge and insights on how Industry 4.0 relates and adds value to the business? It should be viewed as a business strategy more than a technology improvement project. In my opinion, there should be co-chair in driving this effort – The Chief Executive Officer or Chief Operating Officer and the Factory Manager. The CEO or COO will need to set the direction on how to leverage the technology for business goals and expansion while factory manager will need to identify specific area of improvement with the help of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Some of the recommendation includes:

  • Attending as many seminars, workshops and conferences to get the idea from different perspectives. SMEs ought to watch out for some trainings which may be subsidised by the government which will be announced soon. Please note that there is an upskilling element in government’s Industry4WRD framework.
  • Visit fellow SMEs to understand how they have done it, benefit from it and most important what were the challenges and mistakes.
  • Set up an IR 4.0 committee which has members from business, production and Information technology sectors to drive the effort with more focus.
  • Develop a strategic IR 4.0 roadmap for the company. Where do you go from here? What are the areas which could benefit most? Who do we work with? Where do we get the resources? What are the Key Result Areas and timeline?


Industry 4.0 applies to all industries but we will discuss more on manufacturing as an example. In a single production plant / factory there are many processes run by machines. In fact, some SMEs have several factories where the processes are interdependent.

SMEs need not to embark on the Industry 4.0 or Smart factory for the whole factory to begin with. It will be very resource hungry to do it such a way for SMEs. There will be consultancy cost, solutions cost and machine cost. So where should we start?

It is highly recommended to look into your factory’s common pain points and how can we use Smart factory solution to add value to the business.

SMEs must begin with an end in mind. SMEs should not be considering what technology to use before you identify what problems you want to solve or opportunities you want to capture.

As an example, a factory may be running smoothly with no major issues yet faced with high electricity cost. The reason might be the machines are not working at its optimum level resulting in using too much power but producing same productivity yield. Smart Factory solution can identify the source of the problem and fix it to reduce wastage. Such savings can be as high as hundred thousands for a year.


There are many technological solutions in the market – from basic to comprehensive solutions. I will not dwell into which technology but talk about how you should decide.

  • Technology Partners with local presence – it is utmost important to choose partners with local presence to get sufficient support. SMEs would want to have immediate support if anything goes wrong as it will affect your production line.
  • Minimum or no production downtime during implementation – SMEs cant afford to stop production just to cater for technological enhancement.
  • Relevant industry & project experience – same machine can be run in different industry but works differently. Partners with industry domain expertise will add more value to your business.
  • Service model – funding and cash flow are always the concern of SMEs. Partners with option of monthly or yearly subscription might be a more affordable option.

Last but not least, I still highly urge SMEs to undergo MITI’s Industry4wrd online readiness assessment.

July Issue-2019

By Keng Teck Yap, Founder and Managing Consultant of Bizsphere Brand and Marketing Group, Member of SME Association of Malaysia
Written for Business Today Magazine, July Issue 2019

Share this: