To fully understand digital transformation, it’s important to understand its context, which stems from the guiding principles of Industry 4.0. The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, involves the integration of advanced digital technologies and industrial processes to bring about smart factories and smart infrastructures that have highly enhanced operational efficiency. Industry 4.0 smart factories and processes combine the Internet of Things (IoT), automation technology, big data and big data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. What results is the incredible interconnectivity of machines and systems for real time data capture, exchange, and analysis for data-driven decision making. What also results are intelligent, agile, and adaptable systems that bring about optimized productivity and competitiveness. Digital transformation has fundamentally changed industrial manufacturing and processes, bringing about tremendous operational value, so it makes sense why digital transformation is the reality of today.

Digital Transformation – A Fundamental Change in Industrial Manufacturing & Processes 

Digital transformation, which is closely linked and often considered a result of Industry 4.0, refers to the process, many call it a journey, of incorporating digital solutions, strategies, and advanced technologies into traditional industrial processes. Why? To fundamentally change industrial manufacturing and processes to achieve greatly improved operations, work efficiency, and productivity. The resulting smart factories and processes have significantly enhanced capabilities – you can just do so much more. Here’s a good analogy. Think how much more progressive, useful, and efficient a smart phone is compared to a traditional phone.

Traditional mobile phones can be used to call, message, and take photos but cannot connect to the Internet. So, you know what that means. These phones don’t have all the amazing, advanced, and extremely convenient technology, and more importantly, you can’t use those outstanding apps that streamline your life, making it so much easier. The same is true when you compare smart factories to traditional factories. Smart factories and smart industrial processes are miles ahead of traditional factories and processes in terms of operational capabilities and efficiencies thanks to digital transformation. And therefore, have the ability to scale and adopt ever-evolving technology to keep moving forward for greater profitability and competitiveness.

Given this, it seems obvious why most industrial manufacturing organizations and infrastructures are already somewhere along their digitalization journey, with a small percentage having yet to begin. It is estimated that 70% of companies either have a digital transformation strategy in place or are working on one and 7% of companies have fully implemented their digital transformation. Moreover, global spending on digital transformation this year is projected to reach $6.8 trillion. Digital transformation is our current reality, so the next step would be to figure out where your company is on this journey, even if it's at the beginning. Let's look at how to do this.

How to Assess Where You Are on Your Digital Transformation Journey

A good way to assess where you are on your digital transformation journey is to understand the basic steps involved in a company’s digital transformation and then use that as a benchmark to identify where you are in this process. Below, I’ve explained how an organization can go about its digital transformation.

  1. Define your company's digital transformation goals. Many aspects of your manufacturing and industrial processes (such as operational, logistical, maintenance, and workflow aspects) can be improved with the enhanced operational visibility and efficiency you get from digital transformation. So, look at the areas you can and need to transform and improve with digitalization. From there, your company can determine which digital technologies/solutions are required to achieve your goals.
  2. Assess your company's digital maturity level. By evaluating your company’s digital maturity, you can understand its digital capabilities and the level to which it can leverage available technologies. This way you can better gage and define your digital transformation goals.
  3. Evaluate your employees' digital skills and knowledge. The success of your company's digital transformation is greatly dependent on your employees' digital skills and knowledge. You'll need to establish how quickly your team can adopt and leverage digital technologies/solutions. Many companies report some level of disruption when they begin their digitalization, so understanding your employees’ digital proficiency will let you know how to prepare and help them. Oftentimes, companies offer change management, development, and training programs to their employees to help with this transition.
  4. Choose the right digital technologies/solutions for your company. Once your company understands its digital maturity, transformation goals, and employees’ digital proficiency, the next step is to explore the technologies/solutions available to achieve your digital transformation. Do your research. Talk to the experts of the companies that sell digital technologies/solutions. They are there exactly for this purpose.
  5. Track your company's digital transformation progress. It is important to have a defined process and a designated team to manage and track your company's digital transformation. Document the progress and any challenges you've encountered. Consistently record the details, so your company can make data-driven decisions about this process. You can therefore use all this information when you advance to the next stages of your digital transformation journey.

Besides these steps, you can also examine how other companies are doing it or have done it. This reference can provide valuable insight. You can learn a lot from those who went before you, so to speak, so your company can learn from other's mistakes and successes.

Digital Transformation Brings Huge Benefits

Here are some of the huge benefits that digital transformation brings:

  • Enhanced operational efficiency
  • Improved product quality
  • Increased maintenance management/scheduling
  • Higher asset health and life
  • Better safety and risk management
  • Heightened agility and flexibility
  • Cost reduction
  • Resource optimization
  • Attention to sustainability and environmental impact
  • Overall better decision making

Besides being a game changer for achieving operational optimization, digital transformation is also about applying innovation and technology to improve your business model - which is why it’s crucial to have the best plan in place. And sometimes, you might need help to streamline your company’s digital transformation. So, call the experts; that’s what they are there for. And one very well-known and established company in the digital transformation domain is ICONICS.

Our company has over 35 years of experience and expertise to offer so reach out to us for help. No matter your industry, we can advise you and get you going in the right direction. We can also help you decide how best to invest in your digital transformation to ensure your company’s continued improvement, competitiveness, and profitability.

Learn more about today's smart manufacturing and where you are in your digital transformation by scheduling a complimentary digital assessment with our experts.