Leadership in Manufacturing: Digital Transformation

Generic-People.pngThe world of Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) is not known for fast changes or exciting new opportunities. Steady progress and gradually better integration with corporate IT systems have been the norms for three decades. All this has been driven by shop floor technologists and engineers with a variable amount of help from IT departments. Everything is changing, and now is the
time for business leaders to spearhead that change.

What Are the First Changes to Lead?

The entire world is talking about Digital Transformation, and one of the leading voices is the manufacturing industry. Although this is a vast subject that touches every part of a manufacturing company, manufacturing itself is a key to becoming a digital enterprise.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is all about collecting, analyzing, and making use of as much data as possible. The leaders of IIoT research and deployment see the huge amount of available manufacturing data as an opportunity for IIoT apps. Many will rush at the low hanging fruit, particularly in the field of maintenance. There has been a flood of Predictive Maintenance apps offered by almost every IIoT platform developer.

Interestingly, train maintenance is the current flavor of the month. It's a perfect fit, as data collection is straightforward, and analytics capabilities are already available to manage Predictive Maintenance of large train fleets. Similar solutions in the aviation industry are already advanced, but the cost of entry and number of opportunities is trickier than for trains.

Maintenance leaders drive these apps. However, this is just a start. As companies move towards Digital Transformation, top leaders need to take the lead to ensure that corporate strategic objectives are met and that we do not go back to the bad, old days of disparate apps interconnected in different ways. Many discuss of the convergence of Information and operational technology, IT/OT convergence. While this is vital, it is only a means to implement Digital Transformation and achieve the strategic objectives of such transformation.

So, Business leaders from CEO and COO down need to tend the helm during the inevitably rough crossing that Digital Transformation will entail. Leaders need to:

  • Educate themselves on Digital Transformation and the IIoT
  • Define mid and long-term strategic objectives that will lead to the transformed (or digital) version of their company.
  • Put in place organizations that can deliver on the promise; get rid of IT and OT roles that overlap and create a team that will break down the barriers between plant and office.
  • Iterate! Make sure that everything is in motion

Getting to Grips with MOM

As well as corporate leadership, there is a lot to do when starting the journey. We began by talking about the slow progress that MOM has made over the past decades. Once the plans and commitment to Digital Transformation are in place, consider manufacturing data as a source of key digital information. The path to take will depend on two things: the start and end points! The start point varies hugely amongst enterprises. Some have no automation, while others have fully integrated MOM and business systems. For those with limited plant level data management, MOM systems are becoming an essential starting point for the digital journey. Rather than starting where many of us did with plant-centric MOM solutions, the options of where to start are much broader. Senior leaders must ensure that the long-term needs of the enterprise, perhaps across many plants, define the approach to take for MOM. We will look at the different starting (and end) points for MOM business leaders in future blog posts and research.

Although MOM is an important source of information for an IIoT solution, it is important that the long Digital Transformation journey is kept in mind even when short-term focus is on delivering a MOM solution to improve manufacturing performance. Again, it is all about the people and how they work together – a constant theme from LNS Research when discussing technology, process, and PEOPLE.

Help on the Journey

The journey to a digital company involves understanding the current maturity and managing a plan that will achieve the goals. LNS Research will lead a roundtable on operational leadership late in 2017. Leading up to then, we continue to publish blog posts looking at strategies and tactics that business leaders can use to pave the way to digital success and the use of manufacturing data on that journey.

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All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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