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Digitization: Pick Your Shots, But Don’t Miss the Big Picture

Posted By David Brousell, November 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

One of the more interesting findings from the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Factories of the Future (http://bit.ly/188uFh2 ) project this year is what manufacturers are saying about digitizing their business processes.

A strong majority, 59.4%, say their business processes will be largely digitized in the next five to 10 years. But only a fraction--about 14%--expects all business processes to be completely digitized. When it comes to electronically linking the crucial design/production process, however, 53% expect complete digitization to occur.

That’s great news for these specific activities within the manufacturing enterprise. Digitizing the design-to-production process will provide many benefits to manufacturers, including fewer errors in working with design files, greater speed in production execution, and, potentially, cost savings. It will also enable global companies to operate more seamlessly and collaboratively across multiple facilities.

Given these potential advantages, it is perfectly understandable that many manufacturers are focusing their digitization efforts on the design-to-production process.

But it is also important for the manufacturing enterprise as a whole to see the big picture about digitization. Digitization isn’t just about converting data, drawings, or photos to digital form and then moving them around electronically. Digitization is really about a new business paradigm that affects and brings together culture, how a company is organized, and how it is managed. New companies, of course, start with digitization. Older companies with established cultures, organizational forms, and ways of managing have a very different, and more difficult, challenge with the digital paradigm.

That’s why it is paramount for senior business leaders, including those in the C suite, to be deeply involved in understanding how digitization on an enterprise level can move their companies forward. Taking a broad view of how digitization can take the business to the next level – in not only design and production, but in areas such as sales, customer service, procurement – can help unlock the true potential of technology. The key, though, is to approach digitization strategically, and this is why executive-level involvement is so important.

In an article earlier this month (http://bit.ly/1812tM1 ), McKinsey & Co. makes the point that companies must ask themselves some basic questions about the digitization journey. What’s an enterprise view of digitization really look like? And how would it differ in a consumer products company, a metal fabricator, a chemical firm, or an OEM?

Who should be in charge of digitization within the company? Should it be the IT department, the CEO or COO, or perhaps even a chief digital officer? And what’s the enterprise’s current inventory of digital skills, and where does it need to build skills for the future?

Approaching digitization this way – even as it evolves organically within your company – will help ensure that you reap the full business value of this seemingly inexorable trend.

Written by David Brousell

Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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