Do Quality Practitioners have a role in Industry 4.0?

In recent months, I have had a chance to participate in several informal and formal forums on what does the future hold for quality practitioners in Industry 4.0. The reference to Industry 4.0 is centered in a world where transactions, interactions, product development, insights and decisions are largely driven by technologies such as AI, big data, automation/ robotics and IoT. The most common questions I have heard at these forums include,
- will formal improvement programs enabled by Lean and Six Sigma still matter,?
- would organizations still seek certifications based on ISO, CMMI etc.?
- does quality take on a new meaning in Industry 4.0 organizations?
- what would upskilling mean for quality practitioner so that they can prepare for rapid changes sweeping their organizations (or their customers)?

Although I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what Industry 4.0 holds for quality practitioners, here is what I think the changes mean for quality practitioners (including myself). I look forward to hearing the views of my peers in ASQ and in industry.

1. Technologies driving the evolution of Industry 4.0 still require well designed business processes. Automation of inefficient processes or attempting to draw deep insights from data pumped out by applications whose reliability and integrity are questionable only adds
 more risk to the organization

2. With the increased number of system integrations and potential technical complexity led by connected devices, there will be a need for quality practitioners to view platforms as the context (in place of systems and products). This evolution will also require quality practitioners to extend their skillsets to include risk management, quality management and UX. Industry 4.0 is already driving alignment across these three areas and the emergence of platforms will require quality practitioners

3. As mentioned earlier in this post, accelerating flow and driving efficiency cannot be lead to trade-off in effectiveness nor should it negatively impact the risk profile of the platform. This is where the design for quality perspective will become important and I foresee quality practitioners playing an important role in enabling organizations succeed on this front

4. Effective quality practitioners go beyond the use of methods and number crunching to be impactful change agents. They bring the right balance of knowledge in organizational processes and technology so that they can help teams navigate through the changes led by transformation initiatives to embrace and transition to Industry 4.0.