Change Management in Industry 4.0

4 September 2023

Change management in industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 has profoundly changed the way factories operate. Today, principles of lean management are increasingly being implemented digitally. However, the success of this transformation relies not only on technology but also on the motivation, skills, and training of teams. However, many employees encounter difficulties in adapting to new work methods and resistance in using digital tools effectively.

Considering that resistance to change is one of the primary causes of failure in implementing new projects, it is essential to provide the best possible support to employees in this process. In this article, we will identify the different barriers to digital transformation, the challenges of successful employee engagement in such a project, and the levers to be implemented to foster team buy-in. Change management, which encompasses all the operations carried out within an organization to enable it to adapt, is the cornerstone of this process.

The Impact of Digital Transformation to Shop floor Teams

The new technologies of Industry 4.0, such as IoT, AI, robotics, and augmented reality, are transforming production processes, offering new opportunities for industrial businesses to increase their productivity, quality, and competitiveness.

However, the implementation of these technologies also has a significant impact on employees in the workshops, as it involves organizational and cultural changes, with consequences for responsibilities, workload, and interactions with managers and other team members.

And like in any change, fears and barriers can arise within teams, such as:

  • The fear of losing their jobs due to the implementation of automated processes and digital tools.
  • The inability to adapt to new technologies due to a lack of skills or knowledge.
  • A lack of confidence in the reliability of new technologies.
  • Resistance to changing work methods.

It is essential to reassure employees by explaining to them that technology will not replace them but rather help them work more effectively and focus on tasks with higher added value. It is also important to take measures to assist teams in training and familiarizing themselves with new tools and work methods.

The Importance of Successful Engagement of Field Teams in a Digital Transformation Project

The engagement and buy-in of teams are essential for the successful management of change in a factory. Since this requires major changes in production processes, information systems, and work methods, teams must be involved from the beginning of the project management to understand its stakes and benefits.

Moreover, the teams in the workshops have a deep understanding of production and processes and are often the first to detect inefficiencies and problems. By involving them in the project, the company can leverage this expertise to identify new opportunities for process improvement and optimization. This ensures that the factory increases its productivity, as well as its quality, and consequently, the satisfaction of its customers.

Furthermore, employee engagement can be a determining factor in the adoption of new tools. They are often more receptive to technological changes when they feel involved in the implementation and understand how these tools can enhance their work. When employees are convinced of the added value of a technological advancement, they are more likely to use it optimally.

The Change Management Strategy in Industry 4.0

There are several well-known approaches to implementing optimal change management, but we will focus on the methodology of John P. Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School, which is based on an in-depth analysis of over a hundred companies. John P. Kotter’s method consists of 8 steps:

1. Create a Sense of Urgency

This involves establishing a sense of urgency among leaders and employees by demonstrating current operational losses and the benefits that this new project can bring to the company in terms of performance management.

2. Form a Powerful Coalition

This involves identifying all the stakeholders who will be impacted and placing them at the core of the process by listening to them and considering their needs. It is also important to designate project leaders who will serve as intermediaries with the teams.

3. Create a vision

To guide the initiative, it is important to create a clear vision of what the organization will be once the change is implemented. This vision should be inspiring, driven by leaders, and should guide actions and decisions. It can also serve as an argument.

4. Over communicate the Vision

This involves transparent and pedagogical communication about the project as regularly as possible, repeating the reasons for digitalization to engage and motivate employees.

5. Empower Employees to Act

It is important to listen to employees without judgment, encourage them to take risks, and reward unconventional ideas.

6. Consolidate Gains

Once users have embraced the new tools, technologies, or processes, it is necessary to encourage their continued use to gain depth of utilization. Coaching can be implemented to achieve this goal.

7. Generate Short-Term Wins

By rewarding short-term successes, it helps maintain team motivation and continue progressing towards long-term objectives.

8. Anchor Changes in the Culture

Concretely, this involves modifying the organization’s norms and processes to ensure alignment with the new direction by creating sustainable standards and practices.


Digital transformation has become a necessity for industries that want to remain competitive. However, it also has an impact on team organization and individuals, whose engagement is crucial to ensure the success of such an endeavour. It is therefore essential to fully involve them in the project by implementing a change management plan. Not only can this be beneficial for the company in terms of productivity and performance, but it also helps create a collaborative and inclusive work environment that fosters motivation, innovation, and growth.

Rédigé par :

Priscilla Brégeon-Minos – Content Manager @fabriq