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Digital Transformation Primed to take Center Stage

Vinod C, Business Head for India, Process Industries, Industrial Automation, ABB India shares insights on importance of digital transformation

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Digitalization, Digital Transformation, Asset management, Real time visibility, World Economic Forum, Readiness for the Future of Production 2018, EY study, Will the next transformation in manufacturing be led by digital?

In a post-pandemic environment, automation and digitalization are likely to take center stage like never before. The need for higher efficiency, improved productivity and quality combined with advances in digital technology are causing major upheavals in the value chain

A recent EY study titled “Will the next transformation in manufacturing be led by digital?” found that while 83% respondents have an understanding of digitalization, only 3% had a clear cut strategy, budgetary allocation and implementation in progress. Majority of these respondents stated unclear economic benefits from digital investments as the key challenge.

As per the World Economic Forum’s report on “Readiness for the Future of Production 2018”, India ranked 30th among 100 countries on readiness. Digitalization will enable value chain optimization & transformation in the industrial processes. Connectivity, interoperability and connected assets are fundamental to this transformation in the manufacturing and process industry. There are varied automation landscapes in the industry – From partly automated to islands of automation. Digital technologies of the modern times enable this transformation from partly automated systems to highly autonomous systems thereby enabling high level of visibility and insights in the manufacturing value chain.

A mining customer, to improve operational visibility transformed his automation landscape from islands of automation to a connected and interoperable landscape. This has opened up immense possibilities to acquire more data from the process, contextualize data, analyze and bring in improvements in the business KPIs.

Data is a very critical cog in this machine. Manufacturers can optimize their processes and make better business decisions based on access to key operational information. Beyond interoperability between the various elements and rising autonomy, the digital transformation also seeks to achieve a higher degree of sustainability.
To maximize production, quality and effective cost management, mill managers at one of India’s leading paper manufacturers wanted to proactively find and correct potential control issues before they could negatively affect performance. After bringing in some monitoring & control capabilities using digital technologies, the reduction in process variability of the loops tuned varied from 18% to 67%.

A cement producer needed to optimize its operations for energy efficiency and productivity. Deploying a holistic approach, they achieved significant savings in specific energy consumption, productivity and consistency in operations & quality.
Real time visibility, long interval scheduling and short dynamic scheduling enable the processes to achieve uninterrupted & efficient production and has an impact on energy efficiency. Steel makers make use of the technologies around machine vision systems, thermal models & optimization to maximize their gains in their melt shops to improve overall efficiency.
Asset management is a de facto use case where the industry is trying to evolve from time bound maintenance to condition based to predictive maintenance. This transition needs to be phased for many reasons ranging from change in basic maintenance practices, to full visibility of the work orders and the activities conducted on an asset, to evolving the asset models for health prediction. This piece is a journey that needs to be undertaken to achieve reliability based maintenance. In many ways this   is quite complex in nature if one were to achieve a high level of abstraction of the asset from a device to an overall asset.

A digital transformation is not only a technology topic. It is also related to people and processes.  It is very common to see digital transformation strategies failing to reach their goals as organizations struggle to find the right approach (incremental to big bang) and skilled employees who can measure up to the challenges of such a transformation. 

The digital transformation is a continuous learning or improvement process. The pace of innovation and transformation continues to increase as innovative technologies become more mainstream. This is a journey that all companies are embracing in one way or another. While embarking on a digital transformation journey, it is important to put in place the foundational elements for success. This calls for balancing both short- and long-term targets, driving rapid change while still maintaining sight of the larger vision. Organization can look at this as a self-managed program where the financial benefits achieved are ploughed back to invest in further improvements.

Without a successful change management, digital transformational efforts will fail to deliver results.   At the end of the day, change management is about getting people to use the technology you created for them so that they can achieve true business value.  It is important that they are the stake holders to get their problems resolved and this enables a buy-in to technology deployment. It needs an engagement where you frame, focus, explore and test – an agile way of implementation.

In order to remain relevant in this competitive, disruptive environment and sustainably deliver business results, industries will need an ecosystem powered by highly connected, data-intensive digital solutions and services, thereby making digital transformation imperative. It is critical for companies to identify and onboard the right talent and collaborate with the right partners to achieve outcomes.
The time for Digitalization was yesterday but is still not late.

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