‘The implementation of a digital factory needs a concrete plan’
Ninad Deshpande, Head of Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation, responded to a few questions on Digital Transformation.
While most companies are today talking of Digital Transformation, do all of them have effective strategies in place for implementation?
No doubt, today organisations are not only talking but also evaluating available technologies and solutions at the same time assessing their current existing processes to undergo Digital Transformation. If we consider two perspectives, one from the automation vendor and one from a machine builder or factory, the later becomes increasingly critical, as high aspirations of manufacturing organisations without a strong foundation could be a catastrophe. However, most automation vendors already have a future factory with advanced automation concepts. This fact is owing to various reasons such as access to technology, trends, availability of resources coupled with a directed strategy. Manufacturing needs to understand that the implementation of a digital factory needs a concrete plan involving evaluations of existing organisation scenario, understanding the industry trends and technologies, finding the gaps, planning for bridging these gaps, collaborating internally and externally, devising a strategy with a planned budget and finally a successful implementation with a deadline. Currently, not all plan with a concrete strategy with a focus on long-term investment and planning whereas work towards adopting low hanging fruits for quick gains and shorter time to market.
What are the impediments in the process of Digital Transformation in the Indian context? Is RoI the key concern?
In the journey for Digital Transformation, Indian manufacturing industry needs to understand that there could be a slew of challenges, which they would encounter. The biggest hurdles to overcome is identifying our own weakness, finding gaps in existing setup, understanding global industry trends, looking at investing from the point of view of a short-term as well as long-term return on investment.
Before considering Digital Transformation, it is essential for a manufacturing organisation to understand the current practices being followed, which then would be feasible for planning a roadmap, devising a strategy planning for investments and quantifying the returns. A clear understanding of returns is essential for planning investments and plays a vital role in decision-making, which is provided by having knowledge of global trends and case studies.
To overcome most of the hurdles and challenges, it is highly recommended to collaborate with the right partner who would guide any manufacturing unit in their journey for Digital Transformation.
As one of the main drivers of the economy, is the SME sector ready for this transformation?
Today, everyone aspires to be ready for Digital Transformation, with SMEs being no exception. However, the level of automation in every factory varies and this variation could be the defining point for such SMEs for being ready and the amount of effort needed to become a digital enterprise. Due to this, it is very difficult to generalise whether SMEs are or are not ready for Digital Transformation. It is interesting to see SMEs taking efforts in the direction for becoming ready for the future and looking at investing for the same. They understand that to be able to compete with global players they need to adopt these next generation technologies.
How should the SMEs prepare for Digital Transformation?
It is important for all SMEs to take the first step in the direction of digitisation, however small it would be. The easiest way is to start is by identifying the low handing fruits in the journey of digital transformation for quick implementation. It is important for SMEs to understand that acquiring data from isolated machines and lines is possible and there are solutions to enable legacy equipment connectivity. Thus, they can continue using the existing systems. They can just add a single system, which connects to the lower level legacy, semi-automatic, automatic, or combination of these systems and yet be able to connect to the upper systems for analytics.
Are privacy and cybersecurity concerns regarding the cloud exaggerated?
Everyone would remember a recent case attracting a lot of media attention concerning adding of a particular phone number in your phone contacts. This emphasizes the role cybersecurity and privacy play in our daily lives. Factories with the amount of data available on the shop floors, which is expected to be connected to the IT infrastructure, would be vulnerable to attacks if there were no adequate security mechanism. In addition, IT always rates data integrity, confidentiality higher over machine production and availability, whereas the production and maintenance rates production and availability higher than data integrity and confidentiality. It is essential for any factory to balance the IT needs and the production needs. As the gap between IT and OT reduces, the aspects of cybersecurity will further take centre stage.
Ninad Deshpande, professional graduate from SIBM, Pune, is an experienced marketing manager with a demonstrated history of working in varied fields in industrial automation industry – application development, testing, R&D, technology marketing and marketing.