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Avoid Derailment on Your Digital Transformation

  • Sep 27, 2021, 11:08 AM

Today's business environment is dynamic and in a constant state of innovation. Manufacturers and producers are continuously challenged to achieve productive, profitable growth in a secure and safe environment while experiencing accelerated change. These changes may include market dynamics, consumer preferences, technology advances, or internal changes needed to drive continued excellence within the organization.

Fast-paced change and workforce challenges often lead companies to invest in services and partnerships that help them achieve desired business outcomes. Companies also know that data-driven knowledge and insights are a differentiator. The ability to access information to make decisions and act quickly is critical to a company’s long-term success.

Most companies today are investing in digital transformation and are at different places on their journey. Some are just beginning and are excited about the insights and outcomes that will be enabled, while many are experiencing different levels of success, frustration, value and results.

Yet the reality is many companies are falling short of what they expected when they started their journey. These organizations find themselves stuck, struggling to find the insights to understand what is not working and not sure how to realize value. 

They are not alone. In fact, research tells us that digital transformations fail 70% of the time. This can be a result of:

  • Misaligned or undefined strategy
  • A roadmap that does not create value early in the journey
  • Key company stakeholders driving toward different objectives 
  • Missing foundational elements that limit the data and information available to enable the transformation
There are many reasons a digital transformation effort may struggle to exhibit significant business value. Let’s discuss some of the common, missing critical elements we experience in various digital transformation journeys, and how we partner with companies, regardless of where they are on their journey, to help guide them down the path to a successful outcome.

Islands of Information

A company may not have the necessary foundation of infrastructure or equipment to enable access to data.

Analytics that provide meaningful insight into operations are only possible when data can be accessed, analyzed, shared across systems, and effectively acted upon to drive net positive value to an organization. Unfortunately, many organizations today still have disparate islands of critical production data.

This happens when your data environments are not integrated across your production enterprise. To connect these systems, it’s important to develop a roadmap for building an infrastructure that supports the secure sharing of data.

As part of this process, review and evaluate your existing systems and equipment to identify risks or needs for integrating them. Questions you will need to answer include:

  • Where is the obsolescence in our systems and equipment? 
  • What critical performance data can we draw from our equipment? 
  • Can our current infrastructure handle getting the data we need to make decisions that will add value to the business? 
Having a strong infrastructure foundation and a properly trained workforce can improve data collection. Keep in mind though, that your data may only be telling part of a story, rather than providing a holistic end-to-end view of your operations.

Workforce and the Skills Gap 

Many companies today face a skills gap challenge. Not only is it hard to find talent for emerging technology, but it’s also difficult to retain talent in this competitive market. In fact, experts are predicting a turnover tsunami as the pandemic recedes across the U.S., with potentially 50% of the workforce planning to look for new jobs in North America.

The U.S. manufacturing skills gap could leave as many as 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030 and cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion in 2030 alone. Challenges in finding and retaining talent could strain operations and although it may make digital transformation more complicated, the same data and tools could greatly accelerate a transformational journey and help close the skills gap.

One way to reduce the impact of the skills gap on your digital initiatives is by having standardized processes and governance in place for deploying digital transformation solutions across the enterprise. With significant turnover, a simple, repeatable process will make it easier for anyone to step in at any stage of your organization’s digital journey and be successful from day one.

Your organization may need to think differently when it comes to filling positions created by your digital initiatives. Instead of searching for the right person for the job, for example, you may need to start building a plan around your current talent.
For example, one manufacturer launched a university across its enterprise that standardized training protocols for all employees. Additionally, the manufacturer partnered with local tech schools, reigniting apprenticeship programs, and invested in its current talent to attract top new talent and equip existing staff with the skills they need to be successful today and into the future.

Incomplete Data Models to Drive Productivity 

While a strong infrastructure foundation and a properly trained workforce can certainly improve data collection, you’re only partway there. Your data may only be telling part of a story, rather than providing a holistic end-to-end view of your operations.

In successful digital transformations, there are two areas that are assessed and addressed:

  • Data consumption – First, determine how the organization needs to consume data to drive net positive action in their production environment. Through the creation of role-specific personas, an organization can ensure that the right people have the right data, at the right time and place to help drive production efficiencies. These personas can range from line operators all the way up to C-level leadership.
  • Data continuum – Next, examine the organization’s data continuum. Most production organizations are somewhat reactive to data. The first goal ought to be, how does an organization react more quickly when given relevant data. Perhaps this means cutting the reactive actions window from 12 hours to 2, or 15 minutes to 30 seconds, but ultimately it drives value for operations. True digital transformation enables predictive and proactive analytics and actions where inefficiencies can be thwarted before they turn into loss, due to lack of machine or labor optimization, scrap, rework, and other negative impacts to an organization’s cost of goods sold.

The Path Toward Optimization

There are many factors to consider with digital transformation in today’s dynamic and changing environment. Manufacturers and producers are looking for a partner who can advise them on their digital journey to gain faster access to insights and intelligence. Think back to the disruptors mentioned earlier and what we’ve learned about the path toward digital optimization:

  • It’s critical to enable transformation with an adequate foundation, including smart assets and network infrastructure
  • It also includes knowledge and skills to support your business today as well as position and enable you for the future
  • And it includes a clear understanding of the data required to meet your objectives and the ability to connect the data throughout the entire process to drive insights and accelerate business value today and into the future

A Collaborative Partnership Helps Start the Process

Digital transformation creates exciting business opportunities that can be a differentiator for your company in the marketplace. But it is often a challenging and complex journey. SMC has the expertise and advanced technology to meet you wherever you are on that journey and position you for success in the future.


Contact us to learn how we can advise on your specific challenges, guide you on the journey and deliver business outcomes throughout all phases of the lifecycle.




Article Source: Rockwell Automation