Just a decade ago, the manufacturing industry transitioned from clipboards to spreadsheets — now it’s spreadsheets to smart applications. With the labor shortage and supply chain crisis continuing to make it difficult to compete, manufacturers need to figure out how to overcome these challenges. They need digital transformation.
But what does digital transformation actually mean and how will it help manufacturers streamline their operations?
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is more than integrating technology into every area of the business. It’s about understanding the needs of your customers and establishing a system that allows you to provide the greatest value for them.
Digital transformation is about augmenting your current workforce with technology, so they can stay agile and easily respond to the needs of your customers quickly and effectively.
Why Should Manufacturers Care about Digital Transformation?
The issue with conventional shop floors is that each area ends up developing its own way of doing things. As a result, they end up working in silos where only a few people have the “tribal knowledge” needed to perform those tasks properly.
This leaves the entire organization vulnerable should those people become unavailable or when it comes time to onboard new staff.
Digital transformation bridges those gaps.
It is designed to keep the entire organization connected and working together towards a collective goal. It also helps you rise up to market challenges.
In the case of the skilled worker shortage — it enables you to work more efficiently and streamline collaboration in a hybrid world. It also lets you get ahead of the supply chain crisis by giving meaning to your data and providing you with real-time insights that help you make more informed and timely decisions.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of digital transformation for manufacturers is that it gives business owners greater visibility into how their employees work and where the company can better support them.
The 3 Main Areas of Digital Transformation for Manufacturers
Digital transformation is not a completely new idea but there are many different ways to implement it.
At Software InsITe, we narrowed it to just three: People, Processes, and Technology.
One of the biggest things people get wrong about digital transformation is they start investing in technology straight away. But digital transformation begins with people, not machines.
You need to be mindful of the people you work with, your customers, and the people they serve before you can put an effective technology strategy in place.
The companies that do the best job of this focus on developing a strong company culture where the entire organization is aligned with the vision, values, and behaviors. When you have everyone connected and going in the right direction with the right information, you will know which technology you need to support that.
Once you have a strategy and get everyone to buy into that mission, you have the best chance of success.
You could have the best technology in the industry and some incredibly talented people but if you don’t have a proven process, your business will still struggle to compete.
To achieve optimal efficiency and effectiveness, your processes and workflows need to be easily understood, followed, replicable, and scalable.
The companies that find this the most difficult rely very heavily on tribal knowledge where only a few people understand the process.
Only when you have a proven process that is designed to support people are you able to choose which technology can help improve it further.
Many manufacturers were slow to adopt technology because they feared it would replace their workforce. But when you invest in the right technology, you not only make their lives easier, you can actually create more job stability.
More manufacturers need to focus on retaining and supporting their current staff, especially considering the entire country is in the middle of a skilled worker shortage. Leveraging technology can be the best way to accomplish this.
Whether it’s connecting the shop floor and updating PLCs, automating mundane tasks, using AI to optimize defect detection and production, or utilizing data visualization tools like Power BI to give you real-time insights — the right technology will drive growth.
How Do You Start Transforming Your Business?
Digital transformation isn’t instantaneous. It takes time to implement and is an ongoing process. It requires keen strategy and planning before execution.
But Getting started is simple:
- Assemble the right people to lead the transformation
- Identify areas that need improvement, from the top floor or the shop floor
- Find the right technology to help support your people
- Organize them into a list and calculate the time, money, and resources they would require
- Put together an implementation plan that maps to a business goal
Once you do that, continue to monitor your progress and you’ll find that any adjustments you need to make are smaller than they could have been.
That’s because investing in technology won’t just streamline your business and boost your bottom line revenue, it unites your entire business behind a common goal.