Digitalization and Industry 4.0

January 25, 2022 | Digitalisierung, Digitalization

Virtually all companies are now dealing with the topic of digitalization. It has been becoming increasingly important for years, and those who want to keep pace are focusing on it. Frank Krüger, Senior Partner at Staufen AG and Head of the Processes and Digitalization Unit, talks about the connection between operational excellence and digitalization.

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Digitalization is changing consulting

Staufen AG has many excellent consultants who help optimize companies. Digitalization also plays a major role for them: Digital structures open up many exciting new opportunities for the companies, and for the consultants there is a vast new field that they can prepare and work on for their customers. In particular, the combination of Lean Management, process excellence, and leadership and digitalization has a lot to offer.

At Staufen AG, the important topics are divided into four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1 is leadership – especially in times of corona, working from home, and the decentralization of work, new elements in leadership are needed. The possibilities created by digitalization allow virtual leadership, enabling managers to instruct, direct and motivate their teams from a distance.
  • Quadrant 2 is process excellence – where end-to-end processes are optimized. The approach is always holistic and covers every single step in the company, from ordering to payment.
  • Quadrant 3 is manufacturing analytics – entrepreneurs learn how they can use data from machines on the shop floor for analytics and thereby also for improvement activities and quality control.
  • Quadrant 4 covers Smart Factory, Industry 4.0 and digital strategies. This is the area where all other issues come together.

New opportunities for lean consultants thanks to digitalization

Methods such as Value Stream Analysis and Value Stream Design allow lean consultants to visualize and analyze processes within the company. Based on this, they develop improvement measures. The difficulty in this context is working with snapshots: They encompass specific, shorter periods of time, a specific type of job, or even just a specific job. This poses the risk of setting the wrong focus.

This approach becomes even more complex for processes that do not take place directly within the company – for example, in supply chains. Here, analyses must be carried out on the basis of abstract information. This is where new technologies and methods can help: Process mining enables us to look at digital footprints – a holistic view of data over several years. Very efficient analysis and derivation algorithms facilitate this process.

How the analyses work

Lean consultants do not need much to analyze processes and discover where certain measures can be implemented. Actually, only three things are necessary:

  • a reference point for the transaction (order number, production order number, material number, etc.),
  • a timestamp and
  • the process for visualization.

The advantages for customers are manifold: The consultants have vast experience with the topics, understand common problems and have supported companies in many different industries. They know what to pay particular attention to and quickly determine where processes can be optimized. However, it is their experience that allows them to identify entirely new and company-specific issues that have not been encountered by previous customers.

Analysis tools enable continuous improvement

Customers of Staufen AG often show interest in the tools the consultants use for the analyses. This opens up another field of activity within the scope of consulting: If the customer wishes to implement the appropriate tool in their company, the consultants will help with this. They assist in setting up dashboards, explain exactly how they work, and train employees. Digitalization has added this entire field to the day-to-day tasks of consultants.

The optimization team

Staufen AG consultants are able to fulfill many customer wishes regarding analysis tools on their own. In the case of particularly specialized questions or individual requirements, however, special service providers may have to be called in. Other constellations depending on the project may be utilized: Staufen AG can conclude the contract with its external partners or the customer itself does so in addition to the original consulting contract. As each order is different, the consultants work flexibly and tailor the offer to the customer.

Analysis and optimization across industries

The consultants at Staufen AG have supported numerous companies from various industries with the new opportunities digitalization has to offer. These included in particular those for the mechanical engineering, aluminum production, medical technology and automotive manufacturing sectors, as well as electrical manufacturers. As part of process mining, consultants can record and use all digital footprints left by processes across systems.

Moreover, Staufen AG consultants have used the possibilities of digitalization to optimize companies’ structural planning. To do this, they applied corresponding tools to track, visualize and analyze material flows in the factory. This provided exciting insights regarding structural reorganization to increase efficiency.

The project process

Before Staufen AG consultants can begin an optimization project for a company, all questions regarding the customer’s data protection policies must be clarified. Another important question is which database system the company works with – so the consultants can adapt their model to this system. Around three to four weeks before the conventional consultation, the digital part of the project is initiated in order to collect sufficient data.

Once the data is available, it often takes no more than five to ten working days to obtain the first key findings, and then the analysis of the results can begin. In well-organized and tightly executed projects, a total of only eight to twelve weeks is necessary until optimization possibilities are implemented.

Digitalization improves process optimization

Thanks to digitalization, Staufen AG consultants now have helpful tools at their fingertips that make it easier for them to analyze large volumes of data, effectively supporting their expertise. Anyone who would like to learn more about the topic can find comprehensive information on the Staufen AG website. There is also a contact form for all kinds of questions. Anyone interested in process optimization in their company or the possibilities of the tools developed through digitalization will find a wealth of information here.


Dr. Thilo Greshake


Frank Krüger, Senior Partner, Staufen AG

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