In this day and age, manufacturers are presented with an abundance of new digital technologies that not only changes the world around them but it will affect how they will do their business. Digital is the trend; we all know that.

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A few vital questions for manufacturers are: ‘Which of these new technologies truly benefit the organization?’ ‘Does it pay out to invest in them?’ ‘How can we best change my business model?’ And, equally important: ‘How do I adjust my IT landscape to make it all happen?’ These key trends and digital technologies that disrupt modern manufacturing landscapes were the focal points of the webcast presented (see slides and recording below) by Accenture’s Coen Huesmann and Eduard Smits, on Friday 17 March. 

‘New technologies enable new business models, changing the way organizations deal with and manage their assets. For manufacturing organizations, it’s all about creating value in the traditional way, while implementing new innovations as optimally as possible to help creating this value. At the end of the day for a manufacturing company, it’s still all about productivity and reducing costs to stay ahead of competition, but also about utilizing assets and freeing up resources to enable future innovation. The ultimate goal? To offer excellent customer service, more tailored products or processes to meet individual customer's wishes while also being secure and sustainable.
Let’s summarize some of the most important trends happening in the world of manufacturing today:

  • Over the last few decades, many businesses moved to the low-cost countries for manufacturing operations (China, India, etc), but now, due to the rise of intelligent technologies the playing field is leveling. This enables the west to be competitive again;
  • Routine jobs will be replaced by digital technology;
  • Non-routine jobs will be heavily supported by digital technology. New jobs will arise in this landscape but we see people will continue to be a manufacturers’ most valuable asset;
  • New players are entering the market; large companies and small startups drastically change the possibilities in manufacturing. Thanks to them, new ecosystems and partnerships develop around manufacturers and operations;
  • The pace of innovation is so rapid that it’s almost impossible to keep up. New developments come in waves; manufacturers need to decide which wave to pick– and develop in this direction. 

Not “or”, but “and”

Many manufacturing organizations ask themselves the question how to change the business model and IT systems to maximize success. The answer to any question regarding business and technology aspects is multi-faceted: it’s not a matter of one or the other - business and technology go hand in hand. You simply can’t adjust or improve technology without a business incentive, or vice versa. In a world where technology develops so quickly, it can be challenging to make the right decision. However, it is key is to keep the business context in mind when choosing the right technology to implement. Making that decision is what many modern manufacturers are tasked with today; we refer to them as “digital plants”. The number 1 question for all of them reads: ‘What exactly do we do (and what don’t we do) to ensure success at the end of our digital revolution?' 

Manufacturers’ IT Dilemma

‘Before traveling the revolutionary road, keep in mind that many manufacturers are connected to and part of a greater logistical chain. Hence when one element digitizes, the whole chain is turned upside down. Additionally, many manufacturers have foundational IT systems in place, but in a world of mobile apps, agile methodologies and Cloud, these systems are thought of as outdated when, in fact, they’re still useful and necessary for new technologies as a basis to deliver value. Understandably, many manufacturers might be reluctant to invest in newer technology since what they have is technically up to date. The power of the new depends on making the right combination between old and new.’ 

Yes, We Can!

‘The answer to that challenge is: ‘Yes, there is a way’. And it is exactly what we often recommend: multi-speed IT - a combination of “old” but efficient IT systems that still contain a treasure trove of valuable information and the new agile, fast, short-cycled and user-experience-improved IT. Don’t be fooled by the vendor who tells you to scrap your current setup because it’s not “hip” or “trendy”. A combination of new innovations and old technology as a foundation is a prerequisite to shape a future proof platform ecosystem.’

‘A future proof platform ecosystem will harness a combination of new innovations and existing technology as a foundation. This combination offers you best of both worlds; a platform comprising a solid set of agile partners that allows you to experiment, learn, grow and win.’

Take Note(s): 4 Essential Elements for a Successful Digital Technology Platform

‘So how does a solid digital platform ecosystem ensure success?

  1. No platform can survive without the right architecture in place;
  2. The platform needs to be scalable for growth in digital solutions;
  3. No company can do this by itself: choosing the right combination of partners to offer a great user experience is key. The landscape of potential partners is rapidly changing. You need to choose wisely which partners you want to form an ecosystem with if you want to be on the path to success;
  4. Start small (and work your way up): implementation of the platform isn’t executed immediately; the workforce needs to be guided from the first step, slowly but surely raising maturity levels.’

The Challenges Ahead

‘Along with possibilities, there are also some challenges awaiting the manufacturer’s landscape. First and foremost, Security is one of the most obvious ones. While the Cloud offers an abundance of possibilities, it is also vulnerable to cyber threats. A platform needs to be optimally equipped to fend off any attacks.’

‘Secondly, manufacturers need to prioritize their workers in the transitional phase. With all eyes on technology, it’s still vital to make sure employees remain at the heart of the organization. While digital technology enables them to do their job better, it also requires them to develop and gain new skills to keep up with the company’s evolution. Larger manufacturers especially need to be aware and continuously ask themselves: How do I get and keep my workforce in the right shape to make sure they can cope with all changes?’

‘Lastly, the challenge is to make sure all operations are controlled properly - which requires a keen focus on the concept of operational control towers and how they steer manufacturing companies. The solution lies in centralization and standardization while finding the perfect balance between integration and safety.’

What’s Your Dilemma?

‘Stating that these are exciting times for manufacturers and operations would be the understatement of the year. We look forward to diving deeper into specific themes and dilemmas manufacturers or their customers are faced with to discuss in upcoming webcasts and events. Please feel free to share your thoughts and concerns with us - your feedback is what makes these digital gatherings worthwhile!’ Also, we look forward to meeting you for example at the Hannover Messe from 24-28 April in Germany or in our next webcast.

Please contact us, should you wish to set up a meeting with one of our people present at the event.’

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