The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a digital transformation, propelled by the convergence of the Internet of Things, Big Data, the cloud and mobility, as well as the blurring lines between physical and virtual environments. While most manufacturers understand the competitive need for digital transformation, many are failing to move forward, impaired, in part, by organizational obstacles.
Despite the fact that some of these core technologies are already a prevalent part of the plant, digitization is still a new movement that is in need of some tried-and-true best practices—something the industry does not yet have. And, the biggest bottleneck seems to be finding a good place to start the process.
In an effort to help manufacturers wrap their minds around the digital journey ahead of them, Sight Machine, a provider of manufacturing analytics, is offering the Digital Readiness Index (DRI), a free tool that will help companies gauge how ready they actually are from a technological and organizational standpoint. Based on that information, DRI will also recommend quick win projects and areas for investment to develop more advanced capabilities.
The idea came about because many of Sight Machine’s customers wondered if they were actually ready to go digital. They’d ask questions about connecting data the right way, if they have the right historian and how to approach a technology deployment. All good questions, but what they often neglected to factor into the equation is the people involved.
“Whatever the technology that exists, it is less important than the care and the skill of the organization going through the change,” said Sudhir Arni, director of business development at Sight Machine. “The function of company culture, leadership and organizational readiness is the most important factor for success.”
To figure out where a company is at, DRI starts with an online questionnaire that measures—in a very general way—technical readiness (the technical assets and skills needed for digital manufacturing initiatives) and organizational readiness (the organizational assets and buy-in needed for an initiative to succeed).
The questions start by inquiring about commitment and budget, asking if there is an onsite champion committed to the success of the project and if sufficient budget has been allocated to flow data into a system of record, for example. It goes on with a section on skills and resourcing, categorizing key staff members for digitization projects, including data scientists and subject matter experts, and then on to change management to identify if the right leadership is in place to implement process, staff and product changes. The technical readiness portion deals with data connectivity and awareness and cloud and security strategies.
“The questions we ask come from our experience,” said Jon Sobel co-founder and CEO of Sight Machine. “We’ve looked at hundreds of plants to distill what works, what doesn’t work and what it is it that sets people up to be successful.”
There are 30 questions in all. Once answered, DRI uses a weighted scoring system to place your plant into one of five digital readiness zones, including connection, visibility, efficiency advanced analytics and transformation-ready.
Of course, I had to ask what happens to all of the information users enter into the interactive web page, wondering if this is really just a lead-generation tool for Sight Machine. But, the information entered is anonymous, Sobel said, because it is not about selling more technology, but framing the right kind of conversation for creating best practices that will make a digital transformation project successful.
“If companies make it real, others will follow,” Sobel said. Ultimately, if done right, it makes it easier to implement Sight Machine analytics for customers who choose to do so. “Which will lead to achieving ROI sooner.”
Where a factory falls on the digital readiness scale reveals zones that are best matched for the company’s current capabilities and the gaps that need to be filled to get to the next level. For example, if a company is low on the visibility scale, typical areas of development may include building alignment between corporate, operations and IT or refining the data connection strategy.
It doesn’t solve all of the problems ahead, but it does start the conversation, as the tool helps CIOs and operational excellence leaders figure out what resources they need to start their digital transformation.