Is Your Manufacturing Operations Ready for Digital Transformation and How Do You Know?

Is your manufacturing ready for digital?

“Readiness for opportunity makes for success. Opportunity often comes by accident; readiness never does.”

—Sam Rayburn, former Texas congressman

You would probably agree that readiness for anything important is never something to take lightly. After all, most of us have a very good idea of what would happen if we only started training for a marathon two weeks before the race date. Or we replaced the brakes on our car with zero previous experience or instructions. 

But what about less tangible things like digitizing your manufacturing operations? Given all of the different technologies and business strategies you can choose from or dream up, how do you know if you’re even ready to go down a certain path and try a new or established technology? With all of the variables, it’s all too easy to get digital wrong or even avoid it, resulting in missed opportunities or wasted time and money. The problem is that you may not be able to tell something has gone awry or isn’t working as needed or expected until it’s too late to make up the lost ground. And the biggest culprit usually comes back to a lack of readiness.

Reality check: Coming to terms with your digital culture

Does your organization revel in being an early adopter of new technologies, or wait until technologies are fully mature to seriously consider them? Or does it fall somewhere between? The fact is that your organization’s technology culture is likely impacting your overall business results in unexpected ways. See the chart below to determine which adopter type your organization falls under and what the consequence, or benefit, may come with it.

Digital Manufacturing Adopter Types

As you can see from these simple examples, there is a potentially significant price to pay for being in an overly conservative or aggressive company (and that’s not to say that strategic adopters are necessarily doing everything perfectly either). In both cases, a lack of readiness will cost you in one way or another. But back to the question at hand, how can you ensure that your organization is ready for digital transformation and on a path to success with new technology purchases?

The key to being ready for digital transformation in manufacturing industries

In this post, we’ll start with the top-level answer, which is all about having a big-picture strategy that is built around clear business objectives. Without a strong vision for where the company is going, it’s very difficult to pick and choose from all of the technology options available because there are simply too many potential issues to solve or opportunities to take advantage of in your operations. A defined strategy gives you the focus you need to effectively look at people and processes and address the key questions we outlined in our How to avoid the digital manufacturing road to nowhere’ post, which include:

  • Improve: What are you trying to do that you can’t do today? What are you trying to improve that you think could be helped by technology? What capabilities do you want your operations to have?
  • Create value: What value do you want out of a new technology (for example, improved productivity, reduced costs)?
  • Prove and move: What types of use cases could you use to test the new technology?

Ultimately, there is a first step. Before starting aggressive adoption of technologies or getting into the weeds of cutting-edge automation or integration technologies, you simply need a clear, timely view of what’s happening from the top floor to the shop floor of your business so you can manage by the numbers and make better informed investments down the road.

If you’re really ready for digital transformation, don’t settle for “running great”

So you say you’re doing well; manufacturing is running great; best it’s ever been? Do you have the numbers to prove it? Are you really sure that there is no opportunity to improve those numbers? The more likely scenario is that there are more things you could be measuring and more opportunities to improve. What is a 1% improvement in one of your operations metrics worth? It’s worth calculating for sure.

In our next blog we will dig deeper into the keys for digital readiness for conservative and aggressive technology adopters and how to make the greatest impact on operations. 

Dploy Solutions is a cloud-based manufacturing solution that makes it easy to gather real-time business performance data from across your operations to support more effective tactical and strategic decision making. Contact us to learn more about our KPI Management, Strategy Deployment, Business Analytics and Factory Floor Connectivity capabilities.

About the Author:

As Managing Director, Technology for Dploy Solutions, a TBM Consulting Group company, Brian Tilley combines client facing consulting and advisory with his many years of “boots on the ground” to lead product development and drive growth for TBM’s web-based software, Dploy® Solutions. Brian brings deep experience leading teams involved with Industry 4.0, the industrial internet of things, analytics and digitization implementations in manufacturing companies.

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