The MPI Group conducted its annual study, found on Supply Chain Brain’s website, regarding Industry 4.0 and how it’s affecting manufacturers. Their findings show that 58% of manufacturers already have a digital transformation strategy and have implemented Industry 4.0 technologies within their company. And 66% reported increased productivity of over 5% from the previous year, with most expecting that percentage to climb.
Based on the findings in this study, the key takeaway was that manufacturers should aggressively invest in Industry 4.0 technologies. The innovations the study found to be most important were: smart devices to provide real-time data to plant managers and executives and modernizing processes in order to share information with customers and suppliers and to help make better decisions on the plant floor.
Transformation for a Competitive Advantage
To digitally transform, your business needs to integrate digital technology into every aspect of its operations in order to revamp the way you operate and deliver value to customers. Plenty of companies have gone down the digital transformation path and failed, up to 85%. These projects fail because companies don’t put together a well-thought-out plan, or if they do, they don’t stick to it during implementation.
According to a Forbes article, 95% of industry leaders agree that digital transformation is essential to their company’s future success. Transforming your manufacturing business is a big undertaking, and it needs to be painstakingly planned out and then put into action following the predefined objectives. When done successfully, the benefits provide a significant competitive advantage for manufacturers.
5 Steps to Achieve a Successful Digital Transformation
Let’s look at what you will gain, what you should consider, and how you should implement a digital transformation to achieve a positive outcome.
1. Determine What You Want to Achieve
The first part of any project is figuring out your objectives and using them to create a detailed strategy. Start with high-level goals and then drill down into each to develop specific plans to get there. In this stage, consider your customers’ needs and how technology can satisfy them.
Think about the problems you have within your manufacturing company and what types of technology can help to resolve them. Here are some points to consider as you design your strategy.
- How can I help my customers have a better experience?
- What technology could be implemented that would optimize our operations?
- What do we need to do internally to become a culture excited about digital transformation?
- How can we organize the business to utilize the increased data we’ll receive from new technologies?
Putting together a solid strategy is essential. The team creating it must understand the goal, be 100% committed, know what they need to contribute, be excited about the transformation, and convey that enthusiasm to other staff.
2. Put Your Customers First
Customers are central to the success of your manufacturing business, so you should consider their needs and how this transformation can help fulfill those needs. Are your customers looking for products that you currently can’t produce? Would they benefit from having virtual assistant technology that could answer questions about orders anytime, day or night? What if you could better understand how to improve their experience through more in-depth analytics?
When you put customers first and make them the focus of your digitalization needs, you will make changes that will improve customer retention and grow your customer base. Access to more powerful analytics on customer behavior and increased customer interaction through artificial intelligence and automation will help you satisfy customer needs better.
3. Modernize Your Processes
To get the most use out of digitalization, you can’t continue to do things the same way you always have. Processes will need to be evaluated and restructured to accommodate the new technology. It will be a big undertaking that will need employee input to understand process issues. Their involvement will help them understand the goal, why it’s essential, and to feel optimistic about the change.
Setting up your processes to work with the new technology is central to the success of your project. Use people involved in those processes to determine how the workflow should be organized and ensure they take responsibility for their roles.
4. Determine What Technology to Purchase
This step goes back to what you want and what technology will help get you there. You’ll want to choose a digital system(s) with an easy user interface that streamlines your processes so workers use less effort to accomplish their daily tasks.
You’ll want to ensure the system is simple to implement, and be sure to choose a vendor that will answer your questions and provide the training needed to get you up to speed. It’s essential to have technology that helps you operate more efficiently, reduces errors, improves quality, is scalable, provides robust data analytics, offers complete integration, ensures security, and can function in a way that will accomplish your goals.
Listen, learn, and ask questions when choosing vendors. Make sure you feel comfortable with their knowledge, values, research and development, and communication. Ask for advice from other manufacturing companies that have already gone through this process. Do your research and, when needed, utilize technology specialists in this space.
5. Put Your Strategy to Work
The key to a successful rollout will be in stages. Break your strategy down into parts and implement them one by one. For each step taken, meet weekly with those involved to see how things are progressing and make any adjustments necessary to ensure everything is working as intended.
By implementing the new technology in segments, you will be better able to control what is happening, not become overwhelmed, and make it easier to have a positive result. Make sure everyone involved is continuing to communicate and stay on task. These smaller implementation segments will help ensure minimal work disruption and make it much more manageable to implement.
The Bottom Line
Digitalization can have a significant impact on an organization. The key is to take your time, do it right, and continually refer back to the strategy and goals. Constant communication with those involved and openness to adapting your processes and culture will help to digitize your organization successfully.
Remember that your strategy will be the guiding force behind the entire digitalization process. Work to develop it thoughtfully and thoroughly and stick to it throughout the process. Make sure your company is ready to embrace digital innovation and that they understand it is there to help them, not replace them. And finally, remember to keep customers in mind as you develop your strategy and carry it out.