For your business to become a digital leader, you must become a digital leader

Digital technology has become a core component of modern manufacturing, helping businesses to innovate, produce, sell and service more effectively. To realise the greatest gains, manufacturing executives need to safely and successfully lead their businesses through this digitalised ‘Industrial Renaissance’.

To better understand the proactive steps necessary to become a digital leader, The Manufacturer spoke with John Kitchingman, managing director, EuroNorth for Dassault Systèmes.

You’re a big advocate of executive teams having a plan in place before starting on a digital journey? What are the key questions they need to be asking about their business?

Made Smarter Productivity Digitalisation Technology Industry 4 4IR Digital Leader - Stock Image
There is still a great deal of confusion around what terms such as ‘Industry 4.0’ or even ‘platform’ mean.

John Kitchingman: It’s vital that you identify exactly what it is you want to change, improve or be able to do; where are your major pain points, where do you want to increase efficiency or remove cost, how could you diversify?

I think there are still many people who nod their heads without truly understanding what ‘Industry 4.0’ or even the term ‘platform’ means and how it can benefit their organisations.

So, the first thing I would suggest is a deep-dive workshop with those leaders to address exactly that. We would then conduct a business value assessment which enables an organisation to dissect their approach towards creating a digital strategy. We break everything down in order that everyone understands the steps which need to be taken over the coming months.

When it comes to your digital strategy, it’s crucial that the senior team understand why this is happening, why it must happen, and the benefits of doing so. That way, they can become evangelists or champions within the organisation, drive leadership from the top-down and help every facility, department and employee to embrace the change and move forward.

Can you offer a real-world customer case study of a manufacturer who has grasped the opportunity digital offers and is seeing tangible business benefits as a result?

Interestingly, Dassault Systèmes recently held a debate with senior UK industry executives and more than a third of them said that they had already started on a digital journey. Another sizeable proportion said that they were planning to start over the coming 12 – 24 months.

There are numerous examples of our clients who are leveraging the power of digital to great effect. Take Volkswagen and its WE digital ecosystem, the first development of which ‘We Commerce, is an integrated service to provide drivers with personalised recommendations for action at the right place and time.

That’s a great example of an automotive OEM – businesses which typically take years to bring a vehicle programme through to fruition – offering new services to the market in a far more rapid and agile way.

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Another good example is Scania and its core system, ‘Production of One’. Scania is able to maintain a premium price in a highly competitive market by manufacturing highly configured, customised products.

This level of high-speed customisation at a singular level is only possible through the application of seamless digital engineering and manufacturing, and – crucially – not just having the right technology, but the right leadership as well.

Do you believe UK manufacturers have the skills necessary to take full advantage of what digital offers? And if not, what can be done to address that?

The honest answer is, probably not. However, I’m seeing more collaboration taking place – both within the same sector and across different industries; and there definitely appears to be a greater thirst and desire now for peer-learning. That should hopefully translate into seeing more skills transfer from, say, shipbuilding to consumer products.

I was at a large shipbuilder in the Netherlands recently who has just started to define their digital strategy. They were talking about creating roundtables with partners, competitors and representatives from other industries to share learning, advice, common pitfalls, best practice. It was great to hear and I think we’ll see more of that type of activity in the future.

School Children Classroom STEM - Stock
Dassault Systèmes are a major supporter of STEM and are involved in many schemes across a number of different regions.

Attracting new talent into manufacturing has been a challenge for many years, but initiatives around STEM are certainly helping. Dassault Systèmes are a major supporter and we’re involved in many schemes across our different geographies.

The way that digital is transforming manufacturing will assist these efforts immensely. Take autonomous driving and the future of mobility, for example. That is creating new appeal for those who may have previously pursued a career at the Apples or Facebooks of this world.

The digitalisation of industry will attract not only the right sort of talents, i.e. the ones businesses need, but also brand-new talents. These people will bring fresh ideas and ways of working, which will be hugely beneficial to individual organisations and manufacturing overall.

Attracting new talent is vital, but at the other end, we have an aging workforce – particularly within industrial businesses. There is a real need to help those organisations capture that valuable knowledge before it is lost to them. Too often, knowledge lies within a few key individual’s minds and not enough has been done to capture it, define it, refine it and transfer it to the next generation.

Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables our customers to do exactly that, in a simple, intuitive way and share it, not just within their own organisations, but across the entire value chain. That gives people a far richer learning experience and fosters a mindset of continuous improvement.

So, our 3DEXPERIENCE platform doesn’t just better enable specific engineering or design tasks, it applies knowledge to the processes and methods supporting those tasks. That’s an area where we need to see more change moving forward.

How can digital help manufacturers remain relevant in the face of ever-more demanding customer needs and a rapidly changing competitive marketplace?

Our 3DEXPERIENCE platform helps manufacturers to develop new products and services far more quickly than ever before, in a more agile, iterative way.

3DEXPERIENCE Platform Dassault Systèmes digital leader

By having our 3DEXPERIENCE platform at their core, our clients can prioritise sustainable innovation by adopting more disruptive business models, and change the game around how their business and sector brings new products, services and categories of solution to market.

What excites you most about the future of manufacturing?

Seeing manufacturers embrace digital technology and how it will benefit their business. I was recently talking to senior executives from one of our clients, Proctor & Gamble. The business had adopted our 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but what they wanted to ensure was they were maximising the technology and putting processes in place to support it.

That was tremendous to hear. We all use technology every day of our lives in many ways, but are we truly maximising that, are we using best practice, are we creating new process accelerators to ensure we realise true RoI, quicker? That’s what Dassault Systèmes wants to do, not just for our clients and partners, but with them. That’s what excites me.