Digital transformation, according to Microsoft, is about reimagining how you bring together people, data and processes to create value for your customers and maintain a competitive advantage in a digital-first world.
For manufacturers, digital transformation involves understanding a range of new technologies and applying these to both create new business and to improve the current operation. Industry 4.0 provides us with some clues as to how technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the internet of things will come together in the near future to transform the manufacturing sector.
Successfully navigating this complex landscape will require striking a balance between putting in place resilient and stable IT platforms that will last into the future, while also executing small tactical technology-based projects that can yield immediate value and help gain experience.
Blockchain technology has recently came into focus with Bitcoin’s prominence as a viable cryptocurrency. In manufacturing circles, it is probably fair to say that there is some uncertainty as to exactly what future impact blockchain will actually have on manufacturing systems. A number of cloud solution providers are making significant investments in cloud based blockchain infrastructure. At the same time, the enterprise software giants are working to accommodate blockchain technologies into certain processes within their core ERP and supply chain products. Middleware, integration and analytics software vendors are building new architectures that can integrate multiple blockchain technologies with existing line of business applications. These new architectures support real time processing and event management based on the underlying secure blockchain data. The result of all these investments will be an increasingly rich set of tools and techniques available that will ultimately enable new manufacturing solutions.
While the landscape is still shifting manufacturing decision makers are likely to be sceptical of the current industry hype and will be seeking to understand the fundamental principles on which blockchain is based. They will want to find ways to leverage the technology in areas that create competitive advantage, or where their business might be under threat.
Industrial manufacturing creates a tremendous amount of data every day.
Most of this data remains unprocessed on hard drives and is ultimately archived or deleted without any attempt to derive any further value. By missing crucial insights trapped in the data could we be throwing money away by missing important aspects relating to the business?
How can we derive more value from this trapped data we have in the organisation to improve how we run the business?
As an engineer in training I attended many short courses during the first few years in my new job. One of the most valuable courses was a two day problem solving workshop. It remains one of the few courses that to this day that I remember clearly; and that has over many years helped me analyse complex problems and find the optimum solution.
Our technical training as engineers and the nature of the work results in us becoming automatic problem solvers. It is difficult for engineers to not attempt to tackle any complex problem. We tend to see a nail and then look for a handy hammer close by to hit it with.
Perhaps a better solution in some situations is to simply remove the nail?
Our technical training enables us to see our own “obvious” solution clearly, but in many situations, particularly in business this is not the best solution. (more…)
Much of the discussion I am witnessing around big data seems to be missing the point. We understand that something significant is happening in the technology arena. Mobile, cloud, the internet of things, data, analytics are all converging on something. But what? In order to see the true potential of big data and analytics requires you to be able to predict what disruptive changes lie ahead for your industry. Did the publishing industry see Amazon coming? Did the advertising industry see Facebook coming? Did the gaming industry predict the surge in online gaming? Did the travel industry foresee the success of online booking portals?
There is probably nothing more important in any venture than a vision of what is possible and what the future might hold. This holds true in business as well, particularly in technology companies who are seeking to stay relevant in a world where the cloud continues to change the game. The lack of a clear vision that is easy to grasp and which resonates with people on the ground is why many lumbering IT corporates (and even some smaller ones) find it difficult to innovate and develop next generation business models necessary for moving into the cloud.
There are certain pertinent comments in life which you will remember for a long time. An observation by a friend, a quote you read in a book, an acknowledgement of the fruits of years of work, each of these contribute to our own fabric of consciousness that determines how we perceive the world.
One such comment was by a colleague who looked at me in disbelief when I revealed that I was going to form a software company. “But all software will one day be free…” he offered. I have not forgotten this comment after many years. It was perhaps understandable because in his world view, you had to invest millions in equipment before you could make anything of value (he was an engineer). Software was too easy, no significant upfront investment, no barriers to entry in comparison to starting a manufacturing business. “You could start up in a garage” – you could sense the disbelief. This venture to make money from software was in his mind destined for failure. (more…)