Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Critical questions manufacturers should ask for digital transformation success

EMP 2023 Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Today’s leading manufacturing companies are adept at change. They must be in order to survive. Innovating, modernising and continual refinements of operational processes are driving factors in today’s complex market manufacturing landscape. It does not matter if an organisation makes automotive parts, industrial machinery or windows and doors, they need to stay on top of trends and challenges, and learn to adapt. New strategies and actions must sync, and also align with and exceed customer expectations. This is no easy task and many organisations struggle to find the digital transformation starting point.

As they work towards that digital transformation starting point, manufacturers should take a step back and ask themselves three questions before starting out on a potentially complicated journey.

Are we organisationally ready for significant change?

An organisations is only as good as its people, and manufacturers must look carefully at whether they have the right people and culture to support a different way of doing things. It is the people who will be responsible for implementing change, and they should be ready, committed, and on board with any type of transformation plan.

An organisation’s culture can make or break a digital transformation project and “organisational change management” is one of the key components of such a project. Organisations should aim for an inclusive culture where people feel like they are key contributors to the company’s future success.

To achieve this, management teams should encourage a culture of openness to help employees step forward with their ideas. All change, and all transformation, start with an idea – so it’s important for employees to feel empowered to put ideas out into the open.

What is hoped to be achieved and what is the outcome?

Delivering successful digital transformation projects is difficult, and if an organisation does not understand the destination, the chances of success are minimal. Organisations should invest time and effort up front to understand exactly what they want to achieve from the digital transformation. Ask the following questions: What do we need to change? Why do we need to change it? What is the anticipated impact?

No matter how many ideas an organisation has, they will fall into one of four categories:

• Customer alignment.

• Employee productivity.

• Supply chain visibility.

• Operational efficiency.

In terms of customers, an organisation should ask whether it is transforming the way they connect and relate to customers, and whether it wants to offer a new product, increase the level of service, or use data to create a new revenue stream.

When it comes to employees, an organisation should ask whether it is providing capabilities that help engage the workforce and how digital solutions will help improve workforce productivity, empower decision-making, and remove bottlenecks in processes.

For supply chains, an organisation should examine if it is simplifying complex supply chains and increasing visibility to anticipate issues and take steps to resolve potential problems proactively.

Finally, when looking at operational efficiency, a company will benefit from asking whether it can streamline the way it operates as a business, and if it is using technology to bring efficiency to its processes, to predict issues, and prescribe the next best action.

Is the systems landscape digitally compliant and ready?

Before starting a digital transformation project, an organisation’s systems should be digitally compliant and highly flexible. Ideally, the organisation has a systems ecosystem where people can access work, data, and processes without barriers, at any time and from any location. Often having solutions available in the cloud is the best way forward.

Organisations will also benefit from solutions built for the specific industry with sector-specific capabilities built in, not bolted on. Heavily modified applications will almost certainly impede upgrades and modernisation, introduce risk, and hinder adoption of advanced digital solutions.

Ideally, the organisation’s end-to-end systems and applications should be running on a common digital platform that provides integrated modern capabilities such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data, mobility, and predictive analytics.

An organisation’s IT landscape must support the concept of hyper-connectivity – not just connecting applications and digital capability, but connecting everything: its people, applications, devices, data, customers, and suppliers.

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