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Digital transformation – it is the future of business

Photo: File

Photo: File

Published Dec 13, 2021


By Quintin McCutcheon

AS THE world accelerates towards the adoption of 4IR technologies, digital transformation across corporate and industrial, manufacturing and mining environments has become a top priority.

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And while this somewhat daunting prospect may have many CTOs, CIOs and engineers breathing into a brown paper bag, the hastening of digital transformation delivers several benefits including an increase in sales, equipment utilisation and a reduction in costs. It is the future of business.

The challenges are to assess businesses digital readiness and maturity, staff acceptance of the change that digital transformation ushers in and end-to-end life cycle management of assets right down to end-of-life disposal. Furthermore, with digital transformation there are processes to be considered and changes required.

Levelling up

To understand the process of digital transformation and subsequent strategic development, it’s important to assess a companie’s digital maturity:

Level 1 – those businesses and industries that have very little standardisation and work in a siloes.

Level 2 – there is some digitisation at mid-management level, but operations continue to run in a siloed manner, while efforts have begun to define use cases (for digitisation).

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Level 3 – organisations start to collaborate across functions and engineering information is managed across the life cycle with many point solutions; however, processes are still running in isolation.

Level 4 – digitisation across the value chain and collaboration and teamwork throughout most divisions with trust in the information being presented. In mining for example, the processing plant now has full visibility of the mine and can make proactive changes to improve productivity and reduce waste. Maintenance teams can work together to plan downtime and increase the performance of the business.

Level 5 – those enterprises that feature multiple sites that work together in a cohesive, profitable an optimised manner, ultimately improving the performance of an organisation with rapid decision-making through the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twins.

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Moving forward

Digitisation at its core aims to transform information into a digital form, deriving a higher value from the digitised assets. To derive this additional value new context must be created by digitalising business processes and converging multiple systems and datasets that fundamentally change the mindset of those consuming the information, and thereby changing the way business operates.

Unfortunately, we are still faced with poor adoption due to point solutions from the past and the legacy of digitisation being implemented as an IT project. To be successful a new mindset is required that embeds digital at the heart of the business strategy with visible executive sponsorship. Digital transformation represents the evolution of business – from industry 3.0 which was driven by computerised automation to deriving the ultimate value from digitised and digitalised assets and processes.

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The challenge is to establish a digital strategy that aligns with an organisation’s culture and willingness to accept the change. Many organisations, particularly those that have been in operation for decades, struggle with change and the business’s immune system will defend against these new “invasive” processes.

Our recommendation is to implement digital initiatives in short sprints that deliver rapid results, with tangible business benefits and ROI. Furthermore, collaborate with the people in the organisation, assess where processes can be improved and demonstrate how digitisation and digitalisation will benefit them.

The time is now

The potential for positive economic impact enabled by digital technologies is significant and increases every year, which is why time is of the essence. Organisations needs to start defining strategic intent and act or be left behind.

Digitisation represents a major competitive advantage and those organisations that continue to postpone or delay their migration efforts will experience a potentially detrimental knock-on effect.

History is fraught with examples of organisations that refused to transform, and faced closure or diminished returns. Define your strategy, start in small increments, and ensure you have visible executive sponsorship.

Quintin McCutcheon, digital transformation leader at Schneider Electric.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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