Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Sep 20, 2017

By Anthony Bourne, Industrial Equipment News Manufacturers need to think carefully about how they position IoT and other disruptive technologies, and how they communicate the benefits. Digital Transformation (DT) is coming of age. In the recent Digital Change Survey commissioned by IFS, 80 percent saw themselves as “enabled, enhanced or optimized” to leverage DT. Even more impressively, 89 percent said they had “advantageous” or “adequate” funding in place for digital projects—a clear acknowledgment that the time of disruptive technologies is here. But why are businesses investing? Where do they see the big profits? And how successfully are they selling digital change throughout their organizations? Beyond Efficiency The survey found that over a quarter (27 percent) of companies say digital transformation makes them more competitive. Additionally, 29 percent see the main benefit as accelerating innovation and 28 percent feel that growth opportunities in new markets are the primary advantage. Companies using digital transformation to ask far-reaching strategic questions—like “can I use it to get myself a bigger share on the market, or increase my product portfolio?”—are making the most of the long-term, strategic opportunities. They’re sensing how it can transform even seemingly small tactical decisions into key strategic differentiators. But these companies are in the minority. The largest group in the survey, 47 percent, still see the main benefits of DT as “improving internal process efficiencies”, which makes me wonder: do companies really see the full potential? Innovation can make or break a company, and study after study foregrounds it as a C-level priority. So why doesn’t it appear to be a driver for digital transformation? Considering technology investments, this could mean that the majority of funds are invested in making internal processes more effective and thereby failing to enable innovation. Improved internal efficiency as the key reason to explore DT is, in my view, too short sighted. It fails to exploit the strategic benefits and makes it more difficult to win the understanding and commitment of the staff. Overcoming Fear of Change Despite plenty of good news, the survey still reveals that 42 percent of respondents view aversion to change as the main barrier to digital transformation. Companies need to think carefully about how they position...

How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

Jan 20, 2017

“How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved $12 Million” By Colin Paris, Manufacturing.net A call comes through on my tablet. It’s a familiar digital voice letting me know that one of GE’s power generation turbines installed at a utility customer’s power plant was experiencing a change in its operating profile. This change was causing a critical part to wear more rapidly than usual. It would not necessarily cause a problem today, explains the caller, or even in the coming months. But further down the line, it could become an issue that would reduce the overall performance of the power plant and lead to more expensive repairs. That voice on the other end of the line is not a human operator. It is the turbine’s Digital Twin, an exact digital replica of the physical machine built with artificial intelligence algorithms that allow it to see, think and act just like human beings do. In my ten- minute conversation with this Digital Twin, we figure out a solution that would save $12 million for the customer with a simple adjustment in how the turbine operates. The drop-off in performance and higher repair costs will be avoided thanks to a few simple changes the Twin itself recommended based on its assessment of historical data, other turbines in this fleet, and its deep knowledge of the physical stress on the turbine in question. The Internet ushered in the world of connectedness on a level no one had previously imagined. Today, that connectedness has spread from human-to-human, to human-to-machine, to machine-to-machine, and we’ve given it a new name – the Internet of Things. We see the IoT in the home, when we talk to Amazon Echo’s Alexa or to Google and ask them for information or to perform a simple task. To understand those questions and requests, Alexa uses a dictionary that is gained from Wikipedia – and its capabilities are developing quickly, since much of the digital infrastructure of the consumer IoT is already in place. The industrial IoT is developing even quicker, despite exponentially higher technological and regulatory complexities. Industrial devices – like a power generation turbine, a jet engine, a locomotive, or an MRI machine...

Microservices in Manufacturing: Giving Operators the Tools…

Microservices in Manufacturing: Giving Operators the Tools…

Jun 7, 2016

“Microservices in Manufacturing: Giving Operators the Tools + Power they Need to Drive Efficiency” By Andre Wegner, Founder/CEO at Authentise, LinkedIn Full automation in production won’t be achieved in one fell swoop. Instead it’s a series of improvements that, with careful diligence and built on the right backbone, will make the long-awaited seamless art-to-part digital thread a reality. Fortunately, emergent software architecture backs this trend. We’ve got the greatest clients in the world – they’re always looking for ways to improve and teach us a lot along the way. Here are some of the things we’ve learnt from them so far: What they have: All of them have production management systems honed over years of experience, whether it’s in Additive Manufacturing (AM) or otherwise. They have processes, often encoded in software, and experienced people to make sure things run smoothly. In short: They have proven operational excellence time and time again, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. What they want: Automation of dreary tasks so they can focus on more interesting ones. Transparency in the effort so they can seek ways to improve (and they can represent their achievements to management). What they don’t want: Something that completely disrupts the way they work or gives them multiple system/buttons to learn and use. In short: A monolithic enterprise suite that they have to learn. These goals and the way they go about them, put our clients in step with their organizations. By deploying automation, this unrelenting pursuit to improve makes their organizations as whole more agile. The piecemeal nature in which they deploy it also maintains the basic pillars of manufacturing: uptime and security. There is also a focus on action, not just insight, which we have also observed in manufacturing as a whole. Nevertheless, differences abound: Unlike organizations, individuals or small teams may lack access to the tools to fulfil their vision. Unlike individuals, organizations don’t always know what’s needed to drive efficiency at ground zero. Technology can help bridge the gap (finally, as one commentator pointed out), and its evolution towards microservices prove why (see box). Microservices enable products and processes to evolve on the spot, which is appealing in a manufacturing setting that requires incremental improvement. Building...

Two Ways IoT is Disrupting (and Helping) the Manufacturing…

Two Ways IoT is Disrupting (and Helping) the Manufacturing…

May 23, 2016

“Two Ways IoT is Disrupting (and Helping) the Manufacturing Process” By Cameron Beattie, Zachary Segundo and Austin Locke, Viewpoints The internet of things, also known as (IoT), is an emerging technology that has the potential to disrupt the manufacturing industry. It’s about allowing a device with a switch to connect to the internet. For example, a thermostat in your house that is controlled by your phone or a sensor on a CNC machine connecting it to the factory. According to Gartner, approximately 3.9 billion things were connected in 2014 and it is expected to rise to 25 billion by 2020, equating to a 35% annual growth rate.  Factories that are connected to the internet are far more productive and efficient than those that are not. IoT helps manufacturers drive down costs, eliminate inefficiencies, manage workforce skills/gaps and develop new areas to generate business, yet only 10% of industrial operations use IoT, leaving a tremendous growth opportunity for IoT in manufacturing. In A Look Ahead: An Interview from the Future on the Birth of Digital Manufacturing, we imagine what the near future can be for a manufacturing company building on a core strategy that relies on IoT, business intelligence (BI), and cloud-based applications. But how can this strategy usher in a new digital age of innovation? How is IoT Disrupting the Manufacturing Process? There are endless possibilities on how IoT can be used in both discrete and process manufacturing. Two primary areas are Machine to Machine Communication and Product Development Processes. Machine to Machine Communication Manufacturing floors produce huge amounts of valuable data that can be used for many purposes, but companies must capture it to put the data to work. Machine to Machine Communication is a term used to describe technology that allows networked devices to exchange information directly to each other, and it is set to disrupt the manufacturing industry. For example, rather than staff maintaining and monitoring machines on the factory floor, sensors can monitor the equipment and the factory’s performance. Machine to Machine Communication can: Reduce unnecessary downtime due to unwarranted maintenance or unexpected repairs Increase ability to maintain a precise inventory of spare parts Enable machines to share analytics about factory...

Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in…

Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in…

May 19, 2016

“Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in U.S. Manufacturing” By Peter Buxbaum, Global Trade Investments in technology are “essential” for the growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector. According to the 2016 Industrial Manufacturing Trends Report, published by PwC, making strategic investments is one key to growth, particularly in fast-evolving industries. Innovation is building a “data-driven factory of the future with robotics, augmented reality, 3D printing, the internet of things, and other technologies, creating an environment of higher productivity and reduced costs,” the report said. Many of the technological innovations used in manufacturing today will be commonplace within the next five to 10 years, the report added, meaning that manufacturing executives “must lead with an eye toward that reality, and not merely the current bottom line.” The digital age has disrupted many different aspects of manufacturing, noted Nitin Rakesh, CEO of the digital modernization firm Syntel. “From research and development to marketing and sales, businesses cannot afford to put production on hold in order to modernize, but must transform their manufacturing processes in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment,” he said. “Financial pressures in the manufacturing sector are prompting organizations to reassess how they use technology in their manufacturing operations, to determine how they can best modernize their systems in order to maintain a competitive edge.” Modernizing and automating back-end support systems enable manufacturers to cut costs and improve efficiency, Rakesh asserted. “Cost-conscious businesses need to realize that their long-term run-the-business costs will be higher without a proper technology infrastructure in place,” he said. “The digital revolution has reached the factory floor. Investments in IoT-enabled machinery and connected devices now enable manufacturers to harness data from these assets to optimize factory operations. The insights available allow organizations to monitor the input, boost their output and maintain a high level of quality control. Through integrated sensors and automation technology, organizations are positioned to make more effective decisions in other areas such as finance, product design, and...