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Top 4 digital transformation stumbling blocks (and how to avoid them!)

Nearly three-quarters of manufacturers worldwide are either implementing or have already ‘completed’ their Industry 4.0 strategy, so why are an estimated 70% of traditional ‘big-bang’ digital transformation initiatives failing

Fear of failure is a big reason that many local manufacturers are hesitant to begin their digital transformation journey, alongside concerns around perceived cost, the impact of disruption, the need for change management and outdated legacy thinking.

Still, the benefits of implementation far outweigh the challenges, most of which can be avoided should manufacturers know which roadblocks to look out for and take the necessary preventative measures to overcome them.

In this blog, we'll explore the top 4 digitization stumbling blocks and more importantly, how to avoid them!

1. Lack of a clear goal


The importance of having a well-defined, overarching goal when determining a digital transformation strategy is critical. 

Start with a clear understanding of the big picture reason behind your Industry 4.0 initiative, such as ensuring long-term competitiveness. Then you can ensure that each step you take in the implementation process is designed to help you reach that goal.

Having a clearly defined goal and strategy for digital transformation can also give manufacturers a better idea of the costs involved in full-scale implementation, an essential consideration given that many Industry 4.0 technologies come with a significant price tag.

No manufacturer wants to run out of money halfway through the transformation initiative, so budget accordingly. Weigh up both the cost of taking action to upscale your processes and the cost of inaction to make an informed decision.

It's also important to conduct thorough research and engage with industry peers and experts. Build a strong knowledge base by attending events, participating in best-practice peer groups, and collaborating with potential solution providers.

2. Failure to map out processes before attempting to transform them


Before initiating an Industry 4.0 implementation, you need to ask yourself why and how certain processes are being executed in the present. Understanding existing workflows and identifying areas for improvement is necessary and often we skip this step in the rush to transform.

The ‘why’ is so important! And it comes back to your goal – why are you undertaking your digital transformation journey? Analyze why processes are in place now and how these could improve to achieve your goals.

Avoid attempting to transform everything simultaneously. If improving one small area will bring the most value – start here. Industry 4.0 implementation doesn’t have to be driven top-down. Middle-out is a practical approach but must be supported at all levels of the business.

3. Shiny Toy Syndrome


Falling for ‘Shiny Toy Syndrome’ is a common mistake. This involves purchasing technologies that may not align with the actual needs of the organization.

Choose a digital transformation use case that is achievable, addressable, and has visibility across the entire hierarchy of the business, from operators to management. Continue to come back to your why. Will the technology make a meaningful impact on your digital transformation goals? 

When selecting technologies, it’s essential to opt for scalable solutions, allowing for a gradual expansion. They should also be open and extendable to minimize vendor lock-in and designed with a human-centric approach to ensure user-friendliness.

4. The human element


Unfortunately, it is often the human element that proves to be the major stumbling block for digital transformation initiatives.

A lack of user training can hamper the adoption of new technologies and processes, leaving employees ill-equipped to leverage digital tools effectively. Manufacturers may also encounter user resistance, as employees may feel threatened by change, especially if they feel it will disrupt their routines or job security. Lastly, we have a global manufacturing skills gap, with a shrinking pool of candidates qualified to operate advanced technologies. 

Overcoming these hurdles requires robust training programs that involve users in the implementation process from the outset and an investment in workforce development to bridge the skills gap.

These measures ensure that the human element becomes an asset rather than an obstacle in the digital transformation journey.

Start at the foundation


The final piece of advice is to start small. Begin by transforming any non-digital data (e.g., paper records, whiteboards or legacy knowledge) into digital data and connecting fragmented information.

This process is relatively simple but maximally effective as real-time visualization of data is the foundation of any Smart Factory. Once this step is completed you can begin to consider which advanced technologies have the highest productivity and profitability gains for your plant.



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