Industrial companies should start small when digitalizing their operations
Upon taking a “small step” onto the surface of the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered what would become one of history’s most famous phrases. It’s easy to dismiss taking small steps as a lack of real progress — but starting small can often lead to those “giant leaps” later in time. The same is true for manufacturers and their digital transformation. Here, Johan Jonzon, Co-Founder and CMO of edge analytics platform for industrial IoT, Crosser, explains why making incremental change is the key to long-term digital success.
Digitalization has played a key role in Industry 4.0 since the term was first coined back in 2011. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that over 90 per cent of industrial companies across Europe are already investing in digital solutions, driven by the prospect of greater productivity and cost-efficiency.
In fact, adoption is happening at an unprecedented pace. Research conducted by The Manufacturer and commissioned by IBM revealed that 67 per cent of businesses accelerated their digital projects because of COVID-19. As a result of the time pressures, projects that often take years to develop were realized in a matter of days.
The pandemic accelerated adoption of digital technologies, but for long-term success, industrial companies should take time to digitalize their operations.
The skills barrier
In today’s manufacturing, a digital skillset is highly sought after. In particular, the data and artificial intelligence job cluster is expected to increase by 58 per cent by the end of 2022, providing 123 opportunities per 10,000 people.
However, finding the talent required for digital transformation isn’t easy. According to manufacturing parts producer Fictiv’s 2021 State of Manufacturing Report, 44 per cent of manufacturers experience difficulty when looking to hire talent with the required expertise to help them digitally transform.
However, disparity between demand for digitally literate workers and the number of individuals capable of filling such positions is a problem for both technology providers and manufacturers as it restricts their digital transformation journey. Similarly, technology providers are unable to grow, since their solutions are inaccessible to many of their target users.
So, how exactly do we take those small, valuable steps towards digital transformation?
Small steps, big impact
Implementing digital solutions with limited knowledge can be challenging. Carrying out a digital transformation is a complex and lengthy process that can leave businesses in disarray. To overcome this, manufacturers should start with small projects and gradually expand to larger, more advanced use cases.
Accessing data creates a wealth of use cases that can drive growth by enabling real-time analysis and actionable insights to streamline industrial processes and improve business management. Crosser’s edge analytics platform is designed to assist industrial companies in realizing IoT enabled functionalities. The platform is made up of a library of pre-built modules that allow manufacturers to implement common use cases using an intuitive drag-and-drop tool. When first setting up the system, it can be beneficial to start by simply using the platform to read data, without interfering with machine processes.
Once the data has been monitored and a valuable insight achieved, operators can then use this data to begin writing a workflow. Using the Crosser platform, users can test their workflows with machine data in real time and without interfering with normal operations, to guarantee its accuracy. Splitting the process into small, incremental steps reduces the risk of an incorrect configuration that could disrupt the machine’s operation.
What’s more, the Crosser platform is low code, meaning that existing OT and IT personnel can easily use it without the need for formal training or coding knowledge. With the digital skills gap resulting in a shortage of software developers, low-code solutions are an essential enabler of integrating Industry 4.0 technologies into manufacturing facilities.
Small projects fail fast, are cost-effective and offer rapid return on investment insights, which allows manufacturers to develop a digital solution that suits their needs without taking large risks. Once the small workflow has been developed using pre-built modules, it can be steadily scaled to a more advanced solution with multiple actions and triggers.
Taking small steps should not be confused with slow progression. Going in at the deep end with a facility, or even company-wide, use case is a high-risk decision that could have a damaging impact if it fails. By starting small, industrial companies can guarantee the success of their digital transformation in a cost-effective, low-risk scenario that results in greater productivity and reduced operational costs in the long term.