The objective of digitalisation is much broader than breaking silos
Published on : Thursday 24-10-2019
Digitalisation is imperative, but enterprises are still struggling with implementation. How can one begin the process?
Digital transformation is a journey. It must start with a clear blueprint aligned to organisational goals, processes, and above all, humans, working in the organisation. In the manufacturing world, digitalisation is a plant-by-plant approach, aligned to people and machines. Identify use cases cutting across key functions. The best pragmatic approach is to implement digital transformation in one or two plants, estimate the impact and establish value in 6 to 9 months. Inevitably, it will yield proliferation to other plants as logical next steps. Focus on identifying problems and personas inside the factory to solve the real challenges that will yield productivity and business benefits.
For many organisations, the stumbling block is the silos, which ironically, digitalisation seeks to break. Is this a classic chicken and egg story?
There is “an elephant inside the factory” when it comes to the digital transformation of manufacturing plants. The objective of digitalisation is much broader than breaking silos. Idea is not to remove silos to start digitalisation or implement digitalisation to remove silos. If senior management is committed and puts digitalisation as “mission statement”, various plants and departments will come together and deliver what is required. This is a step by step approach; complete overhaul will not work. General tendency of most digital transformation initiatives is an attempt to unite the silos at the top layer through concepts like analytics, AI, etc., but ignoring the need of unification at all levels starting from bottom. There, interworking and interoperability plays important role for the growth of digitalisation.
Is joining one of the digital platforms the only way for an average enterprise?
Absolutely, not. Every enterprise is unique and requires unique solutions to digital transformation. In the manufacturing world, platforms are still evolving. As of now, it is not feasible to utilise one platform for all digital needs. There are five elements of future manufacturing platform: devices in-network, connectivity and data aspect, enabling a process to handle structured and unstructured data, cognition in process and data layer and industry-specific comprehensive abstraction layer. Till the time some platforms are achieving that feat (which may take another five years), a combination of platform and non-platform solutions is the only way forward.
Often, companies get bogged down in discussing technologies rather than outcomes. How should an effective CTO deal with this?
Technology is a means to an end, not the end itself. There are 2 types of digitalisation projects: Financial outcome based and Non-financial outcome based. CTOs need to bucketise both type of outcomes for each area of digitalisation. Process steps involve:
• Understand challenges in achieving business objectives
• Put “Design Thinking” to identify digitalisation interventions
• Outline financial outcome and impact
• Outline non-financial outcome which can open up financial outcome once digitalisation is achieved, and
• Take outcome commitment from stakeholder and case approval from senior management.
Finally, is multiplicity of vendors creating conflict in the process?
The multi-vendor approach has several benefits, but customers need maturity and experience to run multi-sourced environment. In complex digital transformation projects, such as smart factory implementation, manufacturers require skills across all the five elements of future manufacturing platforms. A service provider who has knowledge, skills and experience of working across established manufacturing platforms as well as niche technologies, can work as an aggregator and help the manufacturer navigate through the maze of multi-sourced environment. Currently, “Best-man” is who does the job best, so we see lot of new generation vendors gaining momentum and taking larger cuts in multi-sourced portfolio.
Prabhakar Shetty, is a seasoned executive with extensive experience in building and nurturing successful consulting and technology businesses. Prabhakar has over 30 years of international work experience within the manufacturing, retail and CPG space with repeated success guiding multimillion dollar portfolios with P&L responsibility.
In his current role as Global Head Digital Manufacturing Services at Larsen & Tubro Tech Services (LTTS) leads multiple units like PLM, Manufacturing Automation, Asset Management, Engineering Content Management and Managed Services. This group leads all the digital led initiatives across verticals like Ind 4.0, Smart Cities etc. He has initiated multiple solution streams to leverage LTTS pedigree in core engineering and gel it with new age applications and technologies.