Q&A: Investing in digital transformation in the manufacturing industry

We asked the experts what digital transformation looked like for them, and how organisations should invest in technology to grow their businesses

This article is taken from the Manufacturing 2020 report, published in association with Columbus.

To grow their business, in which technologies should manufacturers invest? How will this investment ensure their success?

“Web presence. An example of this is a customer portal, which provides real-​time, accurate data to the client. Improving communication improves satisfaction.”
Darren Crisp, group ERP Manager, Sofa Brands International

“The internet of things and the connected cloud would be on the top of my list. Some 85% of production assets are still unconnected according to AT Kearney and the World Economic Forum. It is also predicted that 80 billion IoT devices will be enabled by 2025. There is a huge potential for improvements in efficiency and visibility by getting more real-​time information from production to planning. Artificial intelligence goes hand-​in-​hand with the above, almost like a “1a”. As the volumes of data coming from connected devices explodes, AI will make it easier for organisations to automate repetitive or mundane processes and help them focus their efforts on high value and strategic tasks.”
Chandru Shankar, industry director and EMEA business solutions lead for the manufacturing and resources sector, Microsoft.

“They should invest in the technology that answers the problem they are currently trying to answer; there can be no one-​size-​fits-​all-​answer. The key is that any technology should solve a problem in the simplest, easiest-​to-​operate way, so that their people can get on with adding value to the organisation as effectively as possible.”
Ben Salder, change management and organisational development consultant

“It’s all about increasing visibility and reducing manual processes―any investment towards these areas will contribute to success. Wireless data collection is a great example; it allows employees to continue on their day-​to-​day, collecting valuable data in real time, as they go. From this you can easily determine where to improve overall supply chain productivity.”
Emma Holland, IT manager at Progress Rail UK

What does digital transformation look like in the manufacturing industry?

“It looks like it does at home―our digital information connects seamlessly, making our lives easier. In the manufacturing environment, this means having a “single source of truth” that everyone uses and updates. As it does at home, technology in manufacturing should allow information to be accessed and shared quickly and with ease; it should allow us to make more effective decisions, more quickly than ever before. It should also enable us all to add value to the organisation more effectively than ever before.”
Ben Salder

“Digital transformation in manufacturing is simply embracing technology. It’s taking the paper drawings from the shop floor and designing/​showing them on mobile devices. It’s using robotics to reduce the number of manual processes in production, saving time and cutting costs. It’s ensuring that data can be reported in real time and be visible to everyone who needs it, improving product development and servitising solutions.”
Emma Holland

“Digital transformation in manufacturing is all about capturing more accurate data, then analysing and using that data to inform decisions and developments. Do not be scared of technology; it is an essential part of any modern business. If there is part of your business where in the past technology may have been seen as a risk, it should now be seen as an enabler.”
Darren Crisp

“Digital transformation can enhance organisational performance in many areas. It means re-​envisioning how organisations engage with their customers, optimize their operations, transform their products, and empower their employees to do all of the above in a much better fashion.”
Chandru Shankar

Download the Manufacturing 2020 report here.