By Tekin Gulsen, Director, Global Information Technologies & Corporate Planning, Kordsa Global
Convergence of all the ground breaking new technologies are forming the perfect digital storm for all kinds of industries. Some of the IT and business leaders will use this storm to blow their sails and get ahead of competition, while others will struggle to keep their boats afloat. Leaders of an industry as old and established as manufacturing have even a bigger challenge with their large, legendary but yet legacy systems they navigate.
After the former generations of mechanization, steam power, assembly lines and automation, a new generation is upon us with cyber physical and smart systems. The future of manufacturing is here with the convergence of all the newly emerging technologies such as autonomous robotics, big data, simulation, internet of things, augmented reality, additive manufacturing, cloud computing and cyber security.
Some people call this new era Industry4.0, others call it Internet of Things (IoT) but nevertheless, most people realize this challenge and feel the urgency to act. Industry4.0 is not a pre-defined, one-size-fits-all type of a solution. It’s a combination of these different technologies utilized in accordance with the overall company strategies. Companies don’t need a separate digital strategy. They need an updated corporate strategy that incorporates all the relevant digital trends that can generate value for the business.
Industry 4.0 can help companies accelerate production, enhance efficiency, increase flexibility and enable extensive customization. On the whole, the digital transformation is a major driver of innovation and creativity.Industry 4.0 will have a significant impact on the whole supply chain, on the way products will be designed, manufactured, operated and serviced.
There are many important success factors for an organization that is about the execute a digitization roadmap depending the culture and technological maturity level. Some of the critical ones are;
- Management ownership : CEO and the whole executive team need to incorporate digitization initiatives into the company strategies and provide executive sponsorship to these initiatives. The strategy must be very clear and fully digested and owned by the entire organization. Management also needs to manage the shareholder expectations and be patient in terms of the financial returns and tangible outcomes. In some cases, the teams need to explore, experiment and learn from failures.
- Harmony of operational and information technologies: The lines between IT and OT systems are getting blurry due to the integration of these types of technologies. Not only the technologies but also IT and operations teams need to work very closely as one team in order for a successful execution.
- Value oriented approach: No matter what the topic is, we should never lose sight of the ultimate objective; creating value for the customer and the company. Therefore, all the initiatives need to put the customer or employee in the center of the design of any new systems.
- Corporate entrepreneurship and innovation need to be encouraged in order to obtain new, creative ideas that can transform a product or process. We need people to see outside of the borders of well established manufacturing processes and status quo. This requires a major cultural change in most mature companies with well defiend and established processes.
- Continuous improvement approach: Manufacturing companies apply many different models and systems in order to continuosly improve their operational excellence. In addition to innovative bright ideas, they also need to look at the existing systems and try to improve those with the help of the new technologies.
- Supplier ecosystem: Companies need reliable solution partners and vendors that are willing to invest and work together in order to jointly develop these new and customized solutions. Suppliers will also have to develop themselves with these challenges.
- Talent and skill development: All the critical internal resources need to be developed and trained on these new digital technologies so that they can come up with fruitful solutions by utilizing these technologies.
- Use case and best practice sharing: A lot of companies want to embrace Industry4.0 and take action. However, they lack ideas about where to start and how to use these technologies in various parts of the operational processes. Sharing the experiences and ideas within the organization and in the professional networks can foster even more ideas and solutions that both parties can benefit from.
While focusing on digitizing the manufacturing systems and the shopfloor, it’s also important not to ignore the most important assets of an organization, employees. All the new technologies can also be utilized to boost productivity of white collar and blue collar employees. At the end of the day, leaders will need the execution success of the employees in order to come out of this perfect storm even stronger and ahead of the competition.