Ensuring Success: Step 1 – recognising the business drivers behind your digital journey 

Posted in Blog on March 10th, 2023

Alex Smith, MES Business Consultant, discusses the key considerations to make when starting a digital journey.   

IoT, Industry 4.0, digitalisation, etc, etc. Everyone’s heard the buzz words and now, more than ever, everyone wants ‘one’. But they’re simply just that, words. In reality, they mean different things to different people and organisations, and there are different solutions for different industries. There isn’t an Industry 4.0 ‘one size fits all’ solution.

All too often people want to ‘do’ digitalisation and ask for a digital solution, maybe OEE or electronic quality records because they’ve heard it will help them. Some even go as far as saying they ‘want an MES solution’. Often when challenged with why, the answer is – ‘we don’t have one’, ‘we want to improve OEE’ or ‘we don’t want our business to get left behind’.

This can be especially common with larger corporations. For example, when adopting OEE within a business certain things happen; stakeholder buy in is achieved, a project team is put together, they build a specification or URS and go out to tender to various system vendors. But are all the company’s sites experiencing the same problems? Will one size fit all? Will OEE fix your number one business challenge or help hit one of your business goals?

These are all important questions, but the latter are critical. If OEE isn’t going to solve a business challenge or meet one of the business goals, then it isn’t the right solution. Understanding how digital technologies will solve your most critical challenges and how it will move your company forward in achieving its business goals requires taking a step back.

Understand your most critical challenges

Digital technologies can solve many different business challenges, so it’s important that first you really understand what your challenges are. This will involve many different departments from planning, supply chain, operations up to the board level and it can involve everyone from the MD and FD, to the machine operator and maintenance technician. Ask yourself; ‘What challenges are we really struggling with, that if we could solve, could help us gain a real competitive advantage? How can technology, coupled with our people and processes, help us gain this advantage?’.

Stakeholder alignment is essential

In addition, no business has just the one challenge or one goal, and with so many different stakeholders all vying for their wants to be met by this new and exciting technology, alignment is essential. As a business, you must agree on the overriding driver for adopting digital technology, and to ensure project success, this must be aligned with your business challenges.

You have now identified which challenge or goal you will address with digital technology, the business (from shop floor to board) is aligned in the right direction and everyone is talking the same language.

What’s next?

Moving forward on your Smart Factory journey, there are three main areas that need to be addressed:

1) What is the current state of business?

2) What data and systems do you have access to?

3) How will your company adapt to change?

The more time spent at the ‘Why’ stage the better! You understand the critical challenges and how addressing these will impact business KPIs, and now you are ready to start thinking about how technology can help. But what solution will fit your business needs best?

How will you measure the success of the project? How will you justify investment to the board and other stakeholders across the business, whilst demonstrating that the investment will meet company targets for ROI or IRR? And finally, do you have a compelling business case to invest in digital technology?

Coming soon – lookout for my next blog in the ‘Ensuring Success’ series, where I will be discussing the data analysis and justification stage of a digital journey.

Want to learn more? Download the complete 5-step guide to ensuring Digital Transformation success.