Digital Transformation: Your next step isn’t as complicated as you think

Posted on 15 Jul 2019 by The Manufacturer

For many industrial organisations, the digital journey starts with the goal of connecting assets and systems to improve productivity, availability, and reliability.

As your digital transformation progresses, the goal shifts to optimising operations and market engagement. Then, more advanced industrial organisations look to innovate and scale new business models.

But if you work in a large organisation, knowing how to start (or even where to focus) can be half the challenge. Deborah Sherry, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at GE Digital Europe, Russia & CIS, offers advice.

Where to start

Deborah Sherry, CCO and GM of GE Digital Europe

You may be familiar with tech analyst Gartner’s mantra: ‘think big, start small, scale fast’. That’s fantastic if you’re at the beginning of your journey, but less so if you’re picking up the project when work has already started.

And today, that’s where a lot of businesses seem to be. In our experience at GE Digital working with some of the world’s largest manufacturers, the most successful companies are the ones that focus on driving a few initiatives at scale as part of an existing business strategy.

There’s probably a good chance your business is at multiple points of this journey at the same time. So, how do you know where to start, and then where to focus?

Typical results GE Digital customers have seen from digital solutions:

Typical results GE Digital customers have seen from digital transformation solutions

Where to focus

It’s easy to get distracted with new technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital twins, cobots, additive manufacturing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), augmented reality – these are all industry “buzz words”, but how can you differentiate what’s real versus what’s just hype?

By focusing your investment on a specific problem, aligned to a business strategy, companies can realise a faster return on investment, and invest in the right technologies that can be implemented at sustained speed and scale. Fortunately, there are plenty of experts to learn from.

P&G – see the bigger picture

A great example of this is Procter and Gamble (P&G) who saw an opportunity to optimise what it already had. As one of our long-standing Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) customers, it has boosted productivity and improved the performance of more than 100 plants worldwide.

Yet, it wanted to do more to improve the speed of production in its factories, and to do it at a lower cost.

P&G is now rolling out our Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud (Predix MDC) solution to move data from multiple plants into the cloud. Not only can it now have visibility of each plant individually, it has aggregated data into a single dashboard of multiple plants – creating a foundation for additional analytics.

Subaru – driving growth with speed

Subaru of Indiana has a nice problem to solve – growing demand for its vehicles. In fact, it’s the fastest growing automotive manufacturer in the world.

With 10 years of year-on-year growth, Subaru wanted to continue to increase volumes without significant investment at its Indiana plant.

With record turnaround times of just 24 days for its Legacy model – about five-times faster than it takes most automakers to deliver – the secret sauce has been its use of iFIX from GE Digital, part of our automation suite of solutions.

iFIX helps Subaru to better operate almost every department in the plant, from the paint shop to final assembly. As a consequence, Subaru has increased production volumes by 300% over the past decade and ensured more than 98% availability in its trim shop.

SIG – strategic approach brings clarity

SIG, a Swiss Food & Beverage packaging manufacturer, has a long history of data collection and analysis on its machines. It has a strong in-house IT team, and during its strategic business review, it found over 150 digital transformation projects in progress.

It was able to reduce these down to six priorities and invested heavily in two industrial applications as a starting point – Asset Performance Management (APM) and Field Service Management (FSM). This was where it saw the best potential return on investment.

SIG has partnered with GE Digital to implement our solutions at its factories globally – the full project will cover 943 lines by 2022, across 400 factories. For its customers, the goal is to reduce unplanned downtime and optimise its field service organisation, ultimately boosting productivity.

The next step: not as challenging as you might think

As you can see, the challenges facing the industrial sector aren’t new, but how you solve them may be. At GE Digital, we have industrial applications for any step of your journey.

Our portfolio makes it easy for you to start small, realise quick return on your initial investment, and grow into new products as your digital strategy delivers results (see the chart).

Regardless of where you are in your digital transformation journey, there are proven software solutions that can help you meet your business goals today.

Some practical things you can do next:

  • Map what your organisation is already doing
  • Identify which problems, if solved, will provide the greatest return on investment
  • Map those problems to the best solutions
  • Design your solution: “Think big, start small, scale fast”
  • Take the first step!

To learn more watch the webinar Driving Enterprise Performance with Manufacturing Data with LNS Research