Some Thoughts on Digital Transformation
by Vincent Dubois, CEO
We can all agree that COVID has deeply impacted our lives and exacerbated the necessity for digital transformation. Without tools that enable people to stay connected and collaborate – e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex and the like – many businesses would have completely shut down. Many of us started overnight commuting from our homes to our homes every day instead of going to the office.
It is no different in the manufacturing world. Agility and automation are becoming critical due to the disruption of the supply chain, rapid changes in demand for certain products, changes in geographic location where products need to be manufactured, and shortage of personnel, just to name a few factors.
In a recent interview from Philip Stoten, I heard him quote an interesting statistic coming from more than 200 manufacturers he surveyed: 87% of them said that digital transformation of manufacturing is their highest priority, but only 14% said they believe it is properly funded.
This statistic shows the importance of digital transformation, but also that it should be viewed as a journey and companies should be pragmatic about it. Yes, the dream is to manufacture in lots of 1 unit, but you don’t have to get there tomorrow. You can spread your investment over time by taking a step-by-step approach, making sure you reach the right destination. As with any project, agility can serve you well, taking one step at a time and readjusting as required.
If you decide to take that journey, here are a few things you should consider:
- Start with the obvious: connectivity. In order to enable people to collaborate, you need to start with the tools that connect people together – the Zooms and Teams of this world. The same holds true for getting your systems to “collaborate”. You first need to connect your machines together and get the data in a usable format before you can achieve any of the other steps in the journey.
- Next, put a platform in place that can manage the data properly, add proper context to make it relevant for your environment, and share it with other systems in your factory and enterprise that need to make use of it. This will provide you with a foundation of rich, meaningful data upon which you can build to add whichever functionality that you need to transform your operation.
- When looking to automate your processes, focus first on applications that bring the most immediate value to your customers and your business. This can be based on ROI, necessity to keep or win a contract or simply necessity to stay in business. Tools that provide things like complete traceability of a product’s history, material control to reduce waste, and real-time and historical visualization tools to monitor performance and quality are some examples to think about.
- Another option that should be looked at, especially if the projects are not well-funded, is to consider solutions that are paid as a service, spreading cash flows over years of usage rather than ones that are fully charged up front, and reconciling expenses with the benefits. Taking baby-steps will also reduce the implementation time and cost of these applications, helping to reap benefits sooner.
Times have changed dramatically, and we must all adapt along with them. If businesses take the necessary steps now to transform themselves during this challenging period, the good news is that it’s possible to come out stronger on the other side.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you wish to discuss your digital transformation challenges or simply share your point of view by contacting us directly.