The ISV’s Role — and Opportunity — Advancing Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is creating vast opportunities for ISVs to help businesses have greater visibility and efficiency in their operations. Jim Hilton of Zebra Technologies explains.

The fourth industrial revolution is underway. In the phenomenon known as Industry 4.0 or Manufacturing 4.0, businesses are transitioning their facilities into smart factories with goals including greater efficiency and automation.

Jim Hilton, Senior Director of Manufacturing and Field Mobility at Zebra tells DevPro Journal over the past 24-36 months, manufacturers’ understanding and interest in Industry 4.0 has increased. They’re ready to begin work toward the Industry 4.0 vision; however, all are in different stages of efficiency, automation, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) compliance.

Hilton says opportunities abound for ISVs who can meet manufacturers where they are today and help them advance toward Industry 4.0 goals, which Hilton defines as “actionable visibility across an operation and needed visibility into the supply chain that feeds the operation.”

Hilton says the smart factory relies on:

  • Data capture at the edge
  • A system of records
  • Analytics
  • Automation capabilities
  • A cloud visibility platform
The Greatest Industry 4.0 Opportunities for ISVs

Hilton advises ISVs to walk through their clients’ facilities and supply chains and identify their largest pain points. Finding solutions for those challenges, especially if you can address them relatively quickly, is the best place to start. “Big ROI quickly – that’s a win,” Hilton comments.

He said to look for pain points in these common areas:

Supply Chain Visibility — “Manufacturers need to know in real-time what’s en route, the expected ETA, the number of finished goods in stock, and, in some cases, work in process. This enables just-in-time inventory with fact-based accuracy,” says Hilton. This means if, according to a service level agreement, a vendor guarantees a material or product won’t run out, the vendor has the visibility to correct potential issues while there is still time to meet the SLA.

Asset Maintenance — ISVs will find opportunities to provide solutions for asset maintenance, a prevalent need throughout the manufacturing industry. Visibility into assets, automating preventive maintenance, and quick identification and remediation of issues that can lead to downtime is a good place to start toward the goal of a connected factory.

Gated Processes — “The more traceability we need in the world, the more gated checkpoints production environments need.” Hilton comments. ISVs will find ample opportunities to provide quality assurance and traceability solutions.

Hilton points out, “These three solutions put a spotlight on inbound raw materials, maintain the assets to run the operation, and ensure process compliance.” ISVs who can provide solutions in all three areas can help an operation make great strides toward Industry 4.0 compliance.

Advice for ISVs Entering the Industry

Hilton says ISVs should, of course, target the industry’s pain points and develop solutions where they have the least competition. But he adds that you need to make sure you can answer an important question: “What if they say yes?” Hilton says your client may be ready to move immediately and want to scale quickly. “Be prepared for success and what comes next,” he says.

Hilton’s advice to startups is to define your edge. Decide what form data collection will take so you can efficiently make data visible. He says to consider the problem you are going to solve and decide how to quickly collect data with the least amount of work on the part of the customer. “When you solve that problem, you may find you’ve built a better mousetrap.”

Hilton also invites ISVs to learn more about Zebra Technologies’ Enterprise Asset Intelligence solutions that provide actionable visibility to goods, assets, people, processes, and places.  “We need great ISVs to help us provide solutions to the industry’s challenges,” he concludes. 


Jim Hilton leads Zebra’s global vertical strategy in Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics in primary segments of the local markets. Having worked in the technology industry for more than 36 years, Jim brings a unique vision to the real world use of technology and its powerful advantage in driving customer success. 

Jim’s career has spanned route sales, distribution, corporate management and deployment of major technology initiatives. He was responsible for the successful deployment and use of what was recognized as breakthrough “automated distribution systems” in the early 1980s, and later transitioned to managed, deploy and train distribution systems across 30-plus subsidiaries of a major food and beverage company and managed major deployment projects across the consumer-packaged goods industry.

Jay McCall

Jay McCall is an editor and journalist with 20 years of writing experience for B2B IT solution providers. Jay is co-founder of XaaS Journal and DevPro Journal.

Jay McCall

Jay McCall is an editor and journalist with 20 years of writing experience for B2B IT solution providers. Jay is co-founder of XaaS Journal and DevPro Journal.