Accelerating Digital Transformation
Published on : Wednesday 08-07-2020
Why companies should be accelerating digital transformation agenda now, asks Boomi Balasubramanian, and provides the rationale.
Companies have been digitising a lot of their backend processes through Information Technology (IT). The advent of Industry 4.0 has shifted the focus to Operations Technology (OT). Enabling Remote Monitoring & Diagnostics (RM&D), Driving Predictive Maintenance, Safety and Security of resources, leveraging Machine Vision to ultimately operate with utmost efficiency is the call of the hour. In the context of current pandemic, we will need to revisit our understanding and priorities and evaluate how digital can assist the industrial companies as the Black Swan effect has changed the normal. There is now an urgent need for companies in enforcing mandated Covid guidelines and EHS priorities which have now come to the fore and are the need of the day. The need for real-n time data insights is of prime importance to the companies. We call this the digitalisation of core processes.
Today’s technology has taken the possibilities to the shop floor. Transportation of raw materials, linking of supply chain and a whole world of possibilities on safety, security and process optimisation are opportunities at hand. Companies need to look at the convergence of IT and OT take advantage of the Digital Revolution and leverage the disruptive forces that are driving this revolution. Based on our experience working with some of the largest industrial companies both domestic and global, this is no longer a choice and will determine the strategic advantage in the future.
Business Environment & Opportunities
The current pandemic/Covid situation has not only brought an urgent attention to the digital transformation story but also made it to be the compelling force to sustain and survive for industrial companies. In the present scenario, we see a need for doing more with less and we feel it is only possible with strong focus on optimisation of business processes across the value chain. Supply Chain and production facilities are some of the most critical hotspots to unlock this value for the industrial companies. We see the force of digital to be much more relevant and urgent for industrial companies to adapt Industry 4.0 earlier than ever.
While in the immediate term, Covid management capabilities are going to be far more urgent, we should also remember that the attention should be paid to the real use cases of digital such as Improving efficiency, optimising supply chain, reducing accidents and loss of lives and improving worker safety (Occupational Health & Safety) because finally these will determine the strategic advantage of the company in the long run. While this is a fundamental on which the digital transformation is built, the current situation has just raised the urgency and to make sure that the company gets this right the first time. The company may not have the time and the resources to fail and correct course like normal times.
The Black Swan – How companies can manage and transform through digital The black swan effect has shaken many of us on the need for a truly digital mind-set and culture. For those who have been adapting digital transformation, investing on the technology infrastructure such as connectivity, bandwidth and cybersecurity has made it somewhat easy to manage the situation and minimise the hardships. For many companies, this has been a time of urgent board meetings and reallocation of budgets and priorities to do a catch up to tide over the pandemic. From managing current situation and succeeding in the new normal; mandates significant change in immediate term, short term and long term. The new normal has explained the true value of digital and has parked the hype that was created earlier. Change is inevitable and companies need to adapt a digital strategy that is both swift and at the same time be cautious about the decision, technology selections, policy direction and most importantly changes to the culture.
Focus 1 – Enable a culture of trust and empowerment
Companies are tapping into the potential of digital collaboration platforms to offset and comply with the restrictions and guidelines. Traditional models are failing in current times on both people policies and usage of technology. Covid situation has forced everyone from varied walksn of like to learn to operate remotely while ensuring own safety first. While it is very hard for manufacturing and industrial sector, many factories have learned the value of agility to quickly adapt and change. They were listening to the government guidelines in terms of the capacity with which they can operate, social distancing, PPE compliance, anticipating lockdowns, restrictions of people and goods movements and swiftly responding to the unprecedented uncertainty. Those who embraced digital have emerged stronger as they managed the situation and minimised the effect greatly.
In the new normal, enterprises will have to adapt several interventions to run operations in the new normal. Most importantly, the culture of organisations are up for an overhaul because several functions are going to work from remote places to ensure that the front line workforce at the plant are getting all that they need to produce and despatch. It is a fact that a company with great technology can still fail on digital if they fail to pay attention to the culture and the change management.
Focus 2 – Contactless operations and Covid management
The ongoing pandemic has mandated for ‘Contactless’ way of living for society and has made organisations to adapt new ways of running business. Fingerprint based biometric systems were one of the legacies to vanish overnight and is now replaced by Face-recognition (FR) based authentication. Companies are adapting FR technology for attendance and entry authorisation. Computer Vision technology has been making huge inroads in the last several years, but the pandemic has accelerated its adoption. FR technology is great however, it has its own perils and organisations have to be very careful of how it is used and effectiveness thereof. Data Security and Privacy is very important in this context and there is an urgent need of policies of how and where the personal data is stored, the security of the solutions and data. Contactless Visitor Management is another significant area that companies will have to adapt to minimise the contact and manage risks of possible spreads in the factories and the offices. It is important to plan the visitors and plan face to face meetings only when absolutely necessary. Mobile apps, QR Code, FR and Digital Visitor Pass are some of the ways the companies can plan these. This has also shifted the culture of many workplaces and has vaporised the unplanned meetings to a great extent.
For the manufacturing plants, one of the significant focus should be about complying with the guidelines to manage the pandemic such as PPE compliance, Social Distancing. We feel Computer Vision technology can be deployed to detect and alert non-compliance and to drive a behavioural change to ensure that the workplace assures occupational safety and compliance.
Focus 3 – Acceleration of Digital Transformation
While it may be natural to cut the tech spending owing to the pandemic situation and the economic fallout, digital is one area that should not be pushed behind the curtains. Companies need to evaluate their operating plans and priorities to make way for digital priorities to progress and accelerate adoption. Management will have to actively own and drive this strategy and prioritise areas where maximum value can be unlocked from digital such as safety, operational visibility, process control and optimisation and cybersecurity. In simple terms, we believe that this is the time to accelerate digital transformation within the companies and industries and enable workforce and digital systems to coexist to maximise the business potential. Those who embrace will transform and lead while others will miss out the opportunities significantly. Digitalisation will determine the sustenance and survival because they will have to compete on rising prices, manpower shortages and a very uncertain and fast- changing operating environments.
Despite executive support and funding, digital projects can still suffer if we fail to anticipate the underlying infrastructure to run them. There will be a lot of scope for revalidating and pivoting this strategy, but the companies need to push this ahead. While it is important to adapt and change to handle pandemic situation, we advise companies to stick to fundamental tenants on which the digital transformation and roadmap have been laid out. Please keep in mind that we need to upgrade underlying network connectivity, bandwidth and necessary infrastructure to unleash the power of Digital. Key areas of focus for digital could be as follows:
Immediate Term – Covid Management and Compliance
1. Contactless operations, where possible
2. Drive culture of ownership and accountability through empowerment and freedom
3. Manage change actively.
Possible Technologies – Computer Vision, Face Recognition, AI, Cloud.
Near Term & Long Term
1. Increase your focus on Occupational Health & Safety in this COVID times. Will cover Digital Safety in the future articles in detail.
2. Go beyond the IT. Push the envelope on OT and improve the operational visibility
3. Maximise the success of digital strategy and realisation. Aim for first time right Possible Technologies: Sensors, Computer Vision, AI-enabled surveillance and safety, Drones, Edge, etc.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and are based on the experiences of the author. Redistributions and circulation without written consent from IntersectIQ is prohibited. The author can be reached at email@example.com
Boomi Balasubramanian is the CEO & Managing Partner of IntersectIQ. With over 25 years of experience in key roles across severa industries including Energy, Metals & Mining, Oil & Gas, Pharma & Healthcare, EPC, Manufacturing & Retail, he has led and enabled companies on digital and innovation. An experienced CDO and CIO while working with several MNCs and domestic companies like GE, Dover Corporation Sterlite Power. Boomi has shaped digital strategy in several global companies including leading M&A activities in pursuit of digitalisation IntersectIQ (IIQ) advises industrial customers on digital transformation to help them devise the right digital strategy and guide them through this journey. It is enabling companies in core sectors achieve digital safety, predictive maintenance and raising the bar on Industry 4.0 through AI, Machine Vision and Edge computing.