WHAT IS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION? OUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR IMPLEMENTING A DIGITAL STRATEGY IN YOUR MANUFACTURING BUSINESS.
Digital transformation is a phrase you’ll have heard about over the past few years. The Covid pandemic of 2020 has provided a catalyst for many companies to create and implement a digital transformation strategy.
Manufacturing companies that had already started to transform their business operations weathered the Covid storm better than others with no digital strategy. But many are still wondering what digital transformation is and how to implement digital technologies and techniques into their business.
What is a simple definition of digital transformation?
Digital transformation is about putting your customer at the centre of your business and redesigning your processes around them to give the best customer experience possible.
From that first core component of customer experience, companies can then reverse engineer their business processes and operational models using digital technology.
What’s the difference between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation?
Digitization is converting physical business assets into digital versions. A typical example would be scanning a written document to convert it into a PDF format. When records are digitized, they become easier to store, retrieve, and share, making them the perfect start point for a digital transformation journey.
But it’s not just about scanning all your documents and dropping them in files on a shared server. We need to consider digitalization, which refers to converting your businesses processes and operating models to use the digitized data you’ve created.
Importantly, it’s crucial to remember that digitalization is about simplifying and improving your processes to deliver your service faster and at a higher level of quality. Digitized data in your production and CRM systems allows instant access to the required information, which provides velocity to your operations.
Digital transformation brings together the digitized data and digitalized processes to create new levels of customer service, which can lead to whole new service offerings. But it’s important to recognize that company cultures must also change for a digital transformation to be effective.
What are the benefits of Digital Transformation?
As previously mentioned, data is a critical part of any digital transformation model. Of course, all businesses collect data, but how usable is that data? A mountain of data without any method of turning it into actionable information is pretty useless.
A thorough digital transformation strategy will identify the essential data to collect and avoid the waste of collecting data that are never used.
For a digital transformation strategy to work, a company must integrate all of its systems. Disparate CRM, finance, quality management, and production management tools create fragmentation in the overall system. This fragmentation could develop problems that manifest as customer complaints.
A company-wide operating system provides streamlining and optimization across all the departments.
Many companies cite customer experience as their primary area of competing for business. Digital transformation places the customer at the heart of the business and designs systems and procedures around their requirements.
As such, businesses that embrace digital transformation create the best experiences for their customers.
Digital transformation isn’t about installing a load of new software and hoping for the best. Training and developing all the people in the business is critical to a successful transformation. Investing in the digital upskilling of staff creates a digital culture that allows for greater team collaboration, whether they are working on-site or remotely.
Ultimately, there has to be a positive financial effect on the business to justify the company-wide changes and investment needed for a successful digital transformation. As a result, most companies who have invested in digital transformation report increased profits and market share.
Top five tips for digitally transforming your business
1. Define Roles
Every implementation needs a leader, so it’s crucial to identify and appoint the person who has ultimate responsibility for your digital transformation project. It’s likely a small project team will be needed so the leader can delegate duties. Having that core team allows for quick decision making and continuity of actions.
2. Understand your current processes
Draw a process map, including all in-process steps and all raw material inputs from suppliers and outputs to customers.
Identify every sampling and data collection point, detailing the type of data and the purpose of its collection. Include examples of all related paperwork and spreadsheets.
It is rare to find any one person who has this comprehensive knowledge. So often, particularly with home-grown systems, new and or modified data collection can be introduced without across-the-board involvement.
Paperwork systems are relatively easy to assess as they generally do not change quickly, and they are typically part of ISO9001 procedures. However, where data capture utilities, such as Excel spreadsheets, are in use, complete visibility of the data capture and manipulation is not evident, with little or no validation, and formal change control is rarely practiced. Follow “the devil is in the detail” and make sure the details are recorded as part of the exercise.
Most importantly, get backups and copies of everything before you start any change programme.
3. Process Optimization
Having mapped out your processes, analyze every area to see where you can standardize across your whole operation. Standardized procedures make moving from paper to digital systems a whole lot easier.
Next, look at which processes are essential and if any can be removed or combined. A helpful technique is to take every piece of paperwork generated by your current system and ask why. Why do you create that information, and what do you do with it? You’ll often struggle to find an answer as many systems become legacies of old methods or personnel. They’re never reviewed and are adopted as the accepted method. If you hear something like, “We’ve always done it that way,” you’ve probably found a legacy system that can be scrapped.
4. Document Preparation
Don’t underestimate how long it will take to convert all your paper documents to digital formats. Removing staples, post-it notes, and other attachments is a time consuming and soul-destroying task, but it needs doing. Depending on how much you have, some companies specialize in digitizing documents, which may be worth bringing in as a one-off cost.
5. Start Transforming
Although a complete digital transformation project doesn’t happen overnight, breaking it into smaller projects (such as installing a digital quality management system) can deliver quick wins.
As you can see, digital transformation is a beneficial and long-term strategy to adopt and the path can be complex. However, it’s a crucial part of a manufacturing business’s long-term survival and profitability.
At QISOFT, we help manufacturers implement quality management systems that are crucial to their digital transformation. Our QIS software provides instant, real-time quality control data for immediate decision making.