Digital Transformation: The Future of Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is on the cusp of digital reinvention. Fluctuating market conditions and technological innovation are driving change and progress in the form of digital transformation.

Globally, businesses are investing more than $100 billion in these initiatives. However, while organizations are spending millions on digital transformation, 70% of these initiatives are not successful and despite technological advancements in speed and mass production, manufacturing largely depends on the same fundamental processes as it did 100 years ago.

Digital technologies present possibilities for operational, productivity, and efficiency gains. But without the right mindset and a proper digital transformation road map, many organizations attempt to run before they can walk, only to end up falling or even failing in their digital transformation journey.

Connecting the enterprise and manufacturing operations

The manufacturing unit consists of two parts – the enterprise operations and the manufacturing, or shop floor, operations. Some digital transformation initiatives have been adopted by the enterprise part, making it more connected, and process-driven. Most, however, have not crossed the “digital divide” and made it to the manufacturing floor. This begs the question. “How are we to bridge this gap?”

Given the sophistication of most digital technologies and applications, upskilling and retraining the manufacturing workforce is essential. It is crucial to design solutions that shop floor workers trust, will actually use, and find adaptable. Accounting for the unique circumstances of the shopfloor and addressing limitations (both worker and process) while seamlessly connecting the enterprise to the shop floor becomes necessary.

Interconnecting the manufacturing network gives deeper clarity and better insights into operations and productivity since data flows freely across the organization. Fully integrating approaches from both the enterprise end and the manufacturing, bridging the “digital divide”, and operating seamlessly as a single unit, rather than as two separate halves. That’s when the digital transformation of the manufacturing facility will be complete.

Leadership commitment

It is vital for any digital transformation journey to have buy-in from leadership. When people in key roles, both senior leaders and those in transformation-specific roles, are more involved in a digital transformation then the transformation’s success is more likely. For the manufacturing industry, this means more than involving a COO, CIO, or CTO. It means involving representatives from both the enterprise and shop-floor sections of the organization. Listening to the needs and day-to-day issues their workers have, and choosing technological solutions that are strategic, targeted, and intuitive in their use.

Too often, organizations are still sending workers onto the floor with hard hats and clipboards, not laptops and smartphones. This silos information away instead of empowering teams to collaborate digitally, as well as depriving them of the strategic value this data provides.

Nailing down the impact of digital transformation can sometimes be difficult, and requires careful revision and re-assessing many traditional metrics. But a smarter, digital-first, and people-centric approach to workplace operations demonstrates to workers and executives alike that manufacturing is forging ahead as a high-tech industry.

A broader business strategy

Digital transformation is not undertaken lightly, it requires rethinking baseline assumptions on manufacturing including both how and what organizations produce. Manufacturing organizations, therefore, need to define the problems they want to solve and then leverage digital solutions to achieve these goals.

Identifying the right use-case goals for transformation and tying them to bigger business goals is crucial to ensure transformational success. For instance, manufacturing can look at leveraging digital technologies to ensure social distancing to meet compliance mandates. But tying in the solution to transform worker safety by scaling it to potentially address other proximity detection issues provides an increased, sustained return on investments.

The manufacturing sector is getting serious about the promise of digital technologies. Gartner estimates that 36% of manufacturing enterprises realize above-average business value from IT spending on digitization. With increasing competition and growing pressure to reduce costs, increase profitability, and improve customer outcomes, digital transformation seems inevitable. However, it is even more important to put emphasis on the right strategies, identify qualified candidates for transformation, and use the appropriate technologies, platforms, and solutions to drive success.

About Guardhat

Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. We offer cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy to deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing ecosystem of partner integrations.

Guardhat enables companies to monitor worker location, health, and work environment to shorten reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. We hold 15 patents in real-time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. If you are interested in our connected safety solutions – including situational awareness, environmental and biometric monitoring, multi-modal communication, RTLS, Covid-19, and advanced technology solutions – contact us to arrange a demo.


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