The term ‘Renaissance’ encompasses artistic, scientific, technological and cultural achievements. Which is why it’s a truer reflection of what’s currently happening industrially, socially and, importantly, globally.
To learn more about the Industrial Renaissance, The Manufacturer spoke with John Kitchingman, managing director, EuroNorth for Dassault Systèmes.
What exactly do you mean by the ‘Industrial Renaissance’, and how does it differ from other terms such as Industry 4.0 or 4IR?
John Kitchingman: As a theme, Industry 4.0 has been around for some time and the concepts which surround it are sound, but it doesn’t truly represent the scale and scope of the transformation currently taking place.
Integrating smarter, more connected technology into your existing processes is just one facet of that transformation. What underpins it is a fundamental change in thinking in regard to how your business creates value, both internally and externally in your customers’ or partners’ organisations.
Senior leaders and decision-makers have begun to reevaluate how their business designs, engineers, sells and services products, and are leveraging digital technology to become far more agile and responsive to market demands than ever before.
That is the Industrial Renaissance; a term which transcends digitalisation to encompass the emergence of new players, new categories of processes, services and technology, new ways of thinking, and embracing disruption.
Can you offer an example of that?
Too often, businesses focus on short-term tactical productivity improvements, rather than prioritising sustainable innovation over an extended period. Within our 3DEXPERIENCE platform we have created ‘Marketplace’, somewhere where a company can truly collaborate with their suppliers or customers.
One of our clients is Joby Aviation, a relatively new entrant to the highly competitive aerospace market who designs, develops and manufactures innovative electric-powered, personalised transportation offerings.
Our cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides Joby’s designers and engineers with access to the same capabilities and technologies that are typically only available to much larger organisations.
Joby are leveraging this platform to create 100% digital shop-floor instructions to build their prototypes, and then using Marketplace to tender these instructions to the largest global ecosystem of suitable 3D printing partners. Joby provides interested parties with the specifications and quality dimensions, and the 3D printing companies provide quotes and delivery availability.
This has transformed the way Joby builds, manufactures and prototypes their offerings, enabling the company to trade in a far more rapid, agile and flexible way.
3DEXPERIENCE and Marketplace has allowed a small company to embrace a disruptive new business model and progress along their digital journey. A perfect demonstration of the Industrial Renaissance in action.
You’ve noted in the past that technology allows a manufacturer to connect their ‘entire value chain’. What do you mean by that?
Many of the changes I’ve mentioned go beyond individual organisations. Businesses need to start talking not about ‘supply’ chains, but about ‘value’ chains.
The example that I gave of Joby Aviation demonstrates the creation of a brand-new value chain comprised of 3D printing service providers. The business identified an engineering need it couldn’t or didn’t want to fulfill inhouse. Historically, researching, building and contacting a large network of suitable potential partners would have been far more difficult, time-consuming and resource intensive. Our platform has simplified and compressed that entire process.
Digitalisation is a core component of the Industrial Renaissance currently revolutionising manufacturing. It has become a driving force to innovate, produce, sell and service products.
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What new skills does the Industrial Renaissance require, and where will they come from?
That’s a great question. Firstly, I think we need to see far more movement of skills around different industries; which is already happening to some extent.
Last year, Dyson announced that it was going to begin work on a new vehicle programme. That’s a far cry from the vacuum cleaners and hand dryers the company is most known for. We saw Google make a similar move into the automotive arena, while, conversely, Tesla moved from automotive into aerospace.
As businesses increasingly expand their activities and move into new markets or sector, our traditional industries will see a far more rapid injection of digital skills – people who understand and are comfortable working with digital processes.
Secondly, we need to see more academic courses geared around the ‘digital platform’. Initiatives like those built around STEM may – as a foundation layer – help to drive that, but we have seen strong links between academia and industry for many decades, and we can only look to build on that tradition, Dassault Systèmes included.
Thirdly, we need to see more movement from the traditional IT vendor community into the industrial community. That influx of competence will help manufacturing organisations to truly grasp how they can better embrace digital and leverage its full capability, particularly around cloud.
As much as we need ‘hard’ skills around this new digital paradigm, we will also require far greater ‘softer’ skills. Would you agree with that?
I agree fully. I actually think that so-called ‘soft skills’ such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving are just as ‘hard’ or important as qualifications, English or maths, because design or experience thinking should be the bedrock of your organisation’s digital strategy.
By placing an equal emphasis on hard and soft skills in your recruitment processes and employee development initiatives can create a genuine differentiator for your business. It will help you get to the heart of what it is a customer wants far more easily, and ensure that not only do you understand the problem, you can create a solution to address it.
By far, the question I hear the most is, how does a manufacturer who is wholly focused on ‘keeping the lights on’ and fulfilling orders find time to step back, explore what’s possible and innovate – either product, process or business model?
In terms of digital, many of our clients are very mature and have had largely positive experiences over the past two decades of large-scale transformations enabled by technology.
However, that can also be a long, drawn-out painful journey. Therefore, now is the time to start small, define those tangible projects where you can show a return more quickly – again, focus on rapid, agile delivery – and then scale fast.
Also, we’re seeing a greater emphasis being placed on ‘chief digital officers’ or ‘chief data officers’ within industrial organisations. They are sitting at the same level as other c-suite executives and decision-makers, and are being given the autonomy and resources to formulate and drive through digital initiatives.
Don’t try and eat the elephant whole, create something tangible and meaningful for your business first, get confident and then scale fast.