Digital Transformation – The Next Wave
Published by : Industrial Automation
The Covid-19 pandemic has achieved what CEOs and CTOs failed to do – struck a blow for Digital Transformation like nothing else did
The only constant in life is change, wrote Heraclitus of Ephesus (circa 500 BCE), who famously asserted that Life is Flux, and to resist change is to resist the essence of existence. Yet, most people spend a better part of their lives resisting change. The concept of digital transformation dates back to the time PCs became mainstream and digitisation began, paving the way for digitalisation and then, transformation. The early movers, true to style, rode the wave and reaped the benefits, while those habituated to wait and watch continued to do so, till Covid-19 hit humanity in the face. Now many are left wishing if only they had changed with the times. What they obviously realise in retrospect is, businesses that adopted digital transformation strategies are certainly better placed to deal the reopening and running of their stalled operations. So after a decade of Industry 4.0, what is the extent of digital transformation in the manufacturing space in India?
“Any transformation program has its challenges; the Indian industry is learning from peers, and this helps improve the success rate of digital transformation. Industry 4.0 is a journey and Indian manufacturers have identified the tremendous potential in it to gain manufacturing competitiveness,” says Prashant B Kapadia Director – Business Development at Hitachi Vantara Digital Solution Business, who has, during his 24+ years in business, taken up different roles in Consulting, Project Management, O&M and Sales & Marketing in India & International Market. ‘The good news is many of them started scaling Use Cases implementation across the enterprise. Overall, we are on the right path on the journey,” he adds. To read full responce click here
“Today, the amount of digitisation and the extent to which IoT has affected our lives in consumer space is unimaginable. Unfortunately, even after almost a decade since everyone started talking about Industry 4.0, digital transformation, Make in India and Digital India, its impact in manufacturing operations and practices is still rising slowly and not comparable to consumer space,” laments Ninad Deshpande, Head of Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation, who has made it a mission to get to know the needs of internal as well as external customers and understanding their unfulfilled desires thus, being able to provide extraordinary experience. “No doubt, over the years many have evaluated various technologies and market trends. Yet only a few have taken their first steps in their digital transformation journey. We find more manufacturers and factories whether big, small, MSMEs and SMEs looking at moving forward in their transformation journey. We expect a slow yet noticeable growth in years to come,” states Ninad, optimistically. To read full responce click here
Dr Giovanni Traverso, Business Transformation and Management Consulting, who is scouting the Indian electronic components market for Bitron, a global manufacturer of electronics, headquartered in Italy, is optimistic. “In my job I frequently visit Indian manufacturers of electronic components and have seen many deployments of automation excellence in process monitoring, output control, and ERP integration. Over the last 3 years I noted an increase of such champions. At times, the small size of a company limits the potential of excellence that I see in their management and in the expertise of their people. I therefore think this industry still has to consolidate in order to express all competitiveness potentials that India has in the global market,” he says. To read full responce click here
Here is always an element of procrastination when it comes to change, coupled with the fear of the unknown, which leads to playing it safe. How should an enterprise begin the process? Is there an ideal roadmap to follow for companies beginning their digital transformation journey? “According to me digital transformation is a continuous journey with nine key aspects to consider as below,” suggests Deepak Pareek, CEO & Founder, Digi Agri Technologies, speaking from his experience in advising various public and private sector players on Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 globally. Pareek lists them as: 1. Design with the user; 2. Understand the ecosystem; 3. Design for scale; 4. Build for sustainability; 5. Be data driven; 7. Use open data, open standards, open source, open innovation; 7. Reuse and improve; 8. Address privacy and security; and 9. Be collaborative. To read full responce click here
“There is no single ideal road-map, but most important is clarity and consensus on what is to be achieved, and how. Often, this needs an internal champion – sometimes self-appointed – who has acquired knowledge on Industry 4.0, and is able to create excitement within the organisation,” opines Bhadresh Dani, Vice President (Drives & Automation), Bharat Bijlee Ltd. Dani has previously worked with the Danish multinational Danfoss from inception of its operations in India on various assignments in sales and marketing roles, and is passionate about sales, digital marketing, new technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), To read full responce click here
What is the role for various stakeholders in the organisation in this endeavour? “The responsibility of various stakeholders is mainly sparing valuable time for the error free input on time and testing the system at User Acceptance phase thoroughly,” says Kannathasan Meipporul, Chartered Engineer, who has over 3 decades plus experience in the Digital Transformation and industrial automation solutions in large platforms in diversified verticals like Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Telecom and Retail. “Major hiccups in every project is trying to test the system while giving input data with general configuration and started assuming things and ignoring the necessary input data causes time delay overlapping the phases and end conflict of understanding. Later they never reach the phase of user acceptance and end up in a chaotic situation,” he adds. To read full responce click here
“When it comes to transforming an enterprise towards ‘Digital First’ – one specific CXO of a function alone cannot enable it. Various stakeholders have to work collaboratively to achieve the end goal. In non-manufacturing companies, while the CIO can define the charter – for manufacturing companies it is important to work with the business heads like Supply Chain, Manufacturing and Operations and Finance to understand their critical business problems,” states Senthil Kumaresan, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Wipro, and a business strategist and Industry 4.0 specialist having multiple years of experience working with clients across the globe on Digital Transformation. “The Chief of HR also plays an important role in the organisation's change process – evangelising with the workforce on the importance of digital technologies and skills, removing the fear on loss of jobs due to automation, creating an ecosystem of digital squad where the new age millennial workforce could ease the transition for the experienced skilled professionals, who are strong on the core domain but lacks the use of latest digital skills,” adds Senthil. To read full responce click here
According to Ashish Agarwal, Consultant, Digital Transformation Initiatives, the leadership teams across enterprises certainly need to work on the culture that promotes innovation and transformation. Ashish has been leading digital transformation initiatives for more than a decade across Retail, Aviation and Healthcare. “Setting a vision, learning from the world around us, promoting experimentation and sponsoring such initiatives sets the foundation for change. Operating leaders should rethink the processes and evaluate if they are still relevant to the new age customer. Setting unachievable goals helps to stretch the thinking and push teams to think outside current practices that may not be able to deliver the expected outcomes. Companies should develop an open network that connects with academia, industry, competition, startups and customers to constantly evaluate and refine the experiences that they deliver,” he says. To read full responce click here
So in general, what are the key challenges to overcome in the process? “As my experience says, most digital transformation efforts did not fail because the technology did not work but the reality is most digital transformation efforts fail because people did not use the new technology,” says Prashant B Kapadia. “There are two main reasons for this. First, when people are not sufficiently trained, they cannot apply new tools effectively, so they stop using them and find alternatives. Second, when leaders promise certain outcome to stakeholders and they do not receive quick outcomes, e.g., increase in productivity or efficiency, they will make a decision that it is in their best interest to find other methods to secure those outcomes. To overcome challenges in the process, digital skill development should be an integral part of the roadmap. Building innovation culture is very essential. Leadership should help the team to see the big picture and support them to take courageous projects,” he explains.
“While there are many challenges to digital transformation adoption,” opines Deepak Pareek, and notes the critical among them as: ambiguity in the end goal; lack of multi-function benchmarking matrix; change management and reluctance to adapt and adopt; rigidity and silos of process and data; and lack of resources as the activity of digital transformation is seen as ancillary not he central activity. “Until and unless the business leaders do not have clearly defined expectation matrix, the project will never succeed,” he emphasises.
According to Ninad Deshpande, the key challenge remains for all is the investment and resources needed for such digital transformation journey. However, there are low hanging fruits, which might be beneficial to look at for organisations, enabling them with a short time to success with minimal investment. “It is therefore essential for everyone to understand that nothing is free and some amount of monetary investment and a lot of time investment is needed. Thus, eventually the challenges are to have an understanding of return on investments and knowing that it is a journey,” he states.
“Besides the considerations about stakeholder involvement, consider that cost of correction grows exponentially with project advancement, hence digital transformation deployment should happen incrementally in small steps that are measurable and manageable individually (the motto is ‘fail-fast’). Your transformation plan should be designed to avoid long ‘foundational’ initiatives, but rather structured into rapid cycles associated to tangible changes with tangible immediate impacts,” cautions Dr Giovanni Traverso. “In this regard, measurement is key – an accurate modelling of the business upfront will allow early detection of issues as well as capture of produced value, which in turn helps to motivate any stakeholders and keep momentum. A special remark is due about the emerging challenge of cybersecurity and its implications on privacy and safety. On one hand, the introduction of digital technologies such as cloud, mobile connectivity and IoT is increasing the ‘attack surface’ exponentially; so much so that nowadays the classical approach of ‘perimeter protection’ is no longer adequate. On the other hand, availability of skilled resources on the market is falling short of the increasing demand,” he adds.
That brings the discussion to the final poser of this roundtable – will the current scenario act as a catalyst; or rather, the companies use this opportunity? “Yes, the current scenario will certainly act as a catalyst. The way we work and communicate within organisations has changedm dramatically in the last few months. We have all already seen the benefits of virtual presence and connectivity. It is seamless and user-friendly and highly effective. At an individual level we understand that the obstacle is not availability of technology, but our mind-sets. This will increasingly transform our attitudes towards welcoming automation in our factories and supply chains,” asserts Bhadresh Dani.
“In the current scenario – catalyst or opportunity – digital transformation is essential, which every business house has realised now. The best example, which the whole industry has seen by now, how Jio capitalised their digital platform even as every other industry was thinking of lay- off. The future of business nerve (network) system is Digital Platform with data driven decisions,” opines Kannathasan Meipporul.
“We all know that the current pandemic has pushed everyone out of their comforts and have made digital transformation a necessity for continuous operations. One of the industries that was worst hit due to the pandemic apart from the travel and hospitality industry is the Manufacturing sector, which got affected across all dimensions like Personnel, Supply Chain, Operations and Revenue. Most of the manufacturing facilities across the globe are shut down, as employees cannot work from home and for factories that were operational, many were not able to return because of transport restrictions and quarantines,” reasons Senthil Kumaresan. “Majority of the leading manufacturers with whom I have interacted in the past month have strongly felt the need and are committed to apply Industry 4.0 technologies that will help them address this type of crisis (1) Helping companies survive crisis (2) Reduce the recovery phase duration’ and (3) Create Platforms to create a more resilient and agile business in the long term,” he explains.
“The current scenario will certainly act as a catalyst. Organisations have been pushed to rethink their operating models. Flexible and adaptable value chains, smart manufacturing lines, remote working, lowering the cost of operations, multiple paths to supply chain and de-risking supply of products and services through redundancy in supply chains are all new normal that organisations were forced to adapt to. This has shaken their existing models and exposed how vulnerable our operations are and the difficulties to adapt to a change in our ecosystem. Learning organisations will certainly take learnings from this and accelerate their digital initiatives,” concludes Ashish Agarwal.
(Note: The responses of various experts featured in this story are their personal views and not necessarily of the companies or organisations they represent. The full interviews are hosted online at https://www.iedcommunications.com/interviews)