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From the Editor's desk: Digital transformation is more than just technology

May 2019 News

While digitalisation offers new ways to increase operational efficiency, we see many companies battling to overcome the challenges. Particularly, they struggle to get past the ‘pilot’ stage, and are therefore never able to upscale into the game-changing benefits alluded to in the Industry 4.0 ‘marketing brochures’.

There are a number of things that make the process complicated. Firstly, there is the choice of a suitable IIoT platform, secondly, there are the worries around cybersecurity, and thirdly, there is the small matter of organisational culture. This is the elephant in the room, since successful digital transformation depends as much on new attitudes as it does on new technologies to connect plant devices to analytic packages in the cloud. In other words, no digital strategy is ever going to deliver meaningful ROI until company employees at all levels embrace its ideas.

Like any transformation, success depends on a culture that supports strategy. If leaders are serious in their objectives, the first step is to address the insecurity that comes with change. The message is that the new high-performance digital culture is designed to foster collaboration and empower people across divisions to deliver faster results through teamwork. Employees must be aware that far from making them redundant, these new information-based tools will enable them to make better informed judgement calls and on-the-spot decisions in an organisation that values common purpose over structure and managerial hierarchy.

Digitally mature organisations are those that deploy the technologies of Industry 4.0 to achieve a more outwardly focused approach. The emphasis is on breaking down old-style divisional silos to create a new level of customer experience through coordinated operations and enhanced supply chain management. They avoid the trap of ‘technology for technologies’ sake’ by incorporating automation as a fundamental component of their business processes, rather than a hoped-for patch to conceal the shortcomings of outdated legacy practices.

Most of all, they understand that transformation is an open-ended quest for improvement, rather than a project with a fixed completion date. In the manufacturing context, this often involves the ongoing convergence of OT and IT. Of course this will happen differently according to company objectives and the industries in which they operate, but all of them must prepare to manage the inevitable collision of cultures building on the horizon. The successful ones will realise early that people are as important an element of digital transformation strategy as the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. These companies stand to unleash the full potential of Industry 4.0 within a culture of collaboration and teamwork on a scale not achievable before. They will likely invent new ways to work because the old methods simply aren’t competitive any longer. See this month’s feature on IT in manufacturing for more on this much overlooked aspect of digital transformation.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control

steven@technews.co.za



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