Thought leadership

6 steps to overseeing the end-to-end digital transformation of next-gen manufacturing plants

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Manufacturing facilities worldwide are becoming much more capable, enabling organisations to improve operational efficiency, engage with stakeholders in real time, and strengthen collaboration among departments.

As such, more organisational leaders are seeking end-to-end digital approaches for their own manufacturing plants and facilities in a bid to push the boundaries of innovation.

However, cut-throat competition, more environmentally conscious customers, and an ever-evolving regulatory landscape have made feasible digital transformation a challenging endeavour. For leaders looking to avoid the pitfalls that plague most digital transformation projects, the following six steps can help.

1) Identify your goals

Begin at the end. It’s important to understand, and agree upon, as an organisation what your digital transformation will look like once complete. When outlining the objectives of your end-to-end digital transformation, your goals need to be both achievable and measurable. For manufacturers, these goals often revolve around reducing costs and increasing revenue, productivity, or collaboration — but you will need to quantify these at the outset. Consulting with key stakeholder groups to spell out what these mean for your organisation is important.

2) Analyse your processes

With the end-goal locked in, you can now start to determine what you need to do to get there. Start by assessing your current processes in detail to determine the areas of improvement.

  • Get views from various departments on the workflows that are proving most challenging and find out where in the process communication tends to break down.
  • Next, review the tasks that fail to add value and consider eliminating them.
  • Lastly, make a list of repeatable tasks that require human intervention.

3) Invest in solutions that streamline your workflows

Cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and robotic process automation (RPA) are being used by manufacturers around the world to optimise operations, however the full potential of these digital technologies are being realised in fewer plants than you might think. Manufacturers must be willing to fight for and secure the infrastructure investments and resources that can ensure a successful digital transformation. This includes future-ready hardware, enterprise planning tools and software, data storage systems, and establishing secure networks that can support remote access.

4) Develop a training and education plan and create a culture of innovation

Being aware of groundbreaking new technologies is equally important in the manufacturing industry as it is in other sectors. Leaders must create a culture of innovation that encourages employees to embrace disruption and experimentation by taking calculated risks. Additionally, organisations must implement strategies to ensure that their staff have the skills and wherewithal to effectively leverage emerging technologies to meet both their personal and corporate goals.

5) Monitor and track performance

While this step may not sound as resource intensive as the others, overlooking it can water down the impact of your previous efforts. Having frameworks in place to monitor the effectiveness of your digital transformation strategies has a dual benefit – continuous monitoring of your efforts ensures that you are on track to reaching your goals, while the feedback gathered while assessing the success of your digital transformation efforts allows you to optimise your strategy as you go, making sure to right-size your efforts based on your latest circumstances.

6) Evaluate and reevaluate

Technology will only continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. Regularly evaluating your digital capabilities ensures that your operations can always benefit from the latest developments available in the industry. With the right digital foundations in place, integrating new and emerging technologies becomes far more seamless, allowing you to optimise your operations further.

What other measurable approaches can organisations leverage to catalyse their digital transformation journeys?

It is important to take the time to get your digital transformation right the first time.

The Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) is designed to help you assess your Industry 4.0 maturity level through comprehensive assessments, provide guided transformation roadmaps, and help you leverage emerging technologies so you can reach your organisational Industry 4.0 goals faster.

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