April 27, 2020

Industry 4.0 to Help Manufacturers Get Through Times of Crisis

How can Industry 4.0 technologies help manufacturers navigate the current crisis and come out stronger on the other side? Here, we look at operational management and intelligence (OMI) applications and explore ways in which they can help.

Companies can take small, manageable steps in their digital journeys without the need for a full I4.0 technology stack. There are standard off-the-shelf solutions that can make a real contribution to employee safety and operational performance. Most manufacturing businesses can therefore benefit from I4.0 solutions with limited effort.

Digital / Electronic Forms

Electronic logs and forms allow you to record events throughout your operations – all the way from receipt of raw materials to finished goods to the shipping dock. You can digitize your static paper-based processes and create interactive, rich-media mobile SOPs. E-forms can trigger automated, intelligent actions based on your business rules, while dynamically collecting operational data. They can be enhanced with, for example, COVID-19-related workflows and operating procedures such as:

  • Plant entry and visitor/employee compliance
  • Temperature taking
  • Employee and visitor hand washing
  • Exposure risk screening
  • Remote office safety checks

Shift Handover and Communications

For manufacturing facilities, physical distancing measures are dramatically altering operations, employee responsibilities, and staffing requirements. Shift-handovers can be done remotely via web-enabled operational management systems. Via the web, managers can decouple start and end of shift times based on system insights. They can quickly stagger breaks, allowing continued operations while greatly reducing employee contact.

Operational Performance Management and OEE

Operational management and intelligence solutions are subsets of broader MES / MOMS systems. Even though many managers are now off-site due to COVID-19 restrictions, OMI systems can provide web access to information they need to do their job.

Operational management and intelligence solutions can provide real-time dashboards of key performance indicators to support shop-floor performance reviews, increasing transparency. These tools allow you to define and track actions for improvement and can trigger alerts to operators via web and mobile devices. OMI software can evaluate machine data such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) variables: availability, performance rate and quality rate through IIoT connectivity. Improved performance management can help companies boost labor productivity by 20 to 40 percent¹.

Operational management dashboards can present analytics used to conduct root cause analyses and identify courses of action to resolve issues with machine availability, performance, and quality. For instance, a large Canadian food and beverage producer had a low OEE due to rapidly increasing SKUs causing shorter production runs and increased changeovers. This led to inefficient changeover planning and multiple unplanned stops. They then used an operational management solution to identify and classify downtime reasons. Based on this information, they could determine which downtimes were most common, on which line, which shifts and which brands they occurred. Armed with this information, they could take corrective actions and were able to optimize job sequences from a remote control-room. With these improvements, the company improved OEE by 8%.


Operational Management and Intelligence applications can help safeguard operations during challenging times.

Use-Case Example
Digital / Electronic Forms
  • Plant entry compliance
  • Temperature taking
  • Hand washing
  • Exposure risk screening
  • Remote office safety checks
Safeguard operations and employees.
Shift Handover & Communications
  • Remote collaboration and management
  • Manage staggered shifts
Reduce contact while enabling continued operations.
Performance Management & OEE
  • Digital performance management
  • Web-access to data
  • Track downtimes
  • Identify and correct root causes
Possible 20 to 40 % labor productivity.

Possible OEE increase by 8%.


According to McKinsey, this pandemic will have a lasting effect on businesses, even after it passes. Industrials might see a significant shift toward remotely accessible performance systems and overall increase in digitalization. They may also decide to implement new strategies along the entire supply chain to avoid disruptions like those encountered in early 2020² .

Consider examining your digital transformation strategy and leveraging I4.0 to emerge stronger on the other side. Look at technologies that can be easily and quickly tailored to your business processes to minimize change management implications. Operational management and intelligence solutions can help maintain critical operations. They can make it possible to quickly shift to remote operations and help contribute to employee safety and health.

Contact Ekhosoft today to request a demo or discuss how our operational management and intelligence solutions and related consulting services can help you take the necessary steps to improve your operational performance in times of crisis.

¹ Global lighthouse network: Insights from the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, a joint report from McKinsey and World Economic Forum, December 2019, weforum.org.
² Coronavirus: Industrial IoT in challenging times. The Industrial Internet of Things can help companies navigate the current crisis and emerge stronger once operations ramp up again. by Stefan Fahrni, Christian Jansen, Michael John, Tarek Kasah, Bodo Körber, and Niko Mohr, April 2020

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