The digital transformation of companies officially started in 2012, the year of birth of this term which reflects more the awareness by the company of its delay in its technological adaptation than a real awareness of its difficulties in modernizing its processes. .
Apart from this digital transformation, in society started 20 years earlier when Internet technologies were born and giants were already being built, Google, Amazon, Paypal… There is no need to detail the competitive advantages that the native use of these technologies in the construction of the processes of these current giants have brought, the financial results are before our eyes.
This is what it is all about, increased productive performance, accelerated development, domination of the markets despite a past so recent that the leaders of the large companies in our historic economy have, only rarely, managed to adapt. The most far-sighted will have succeeded in adapting as suppliers, integrating a digital relationship with these giants into their process. Industries have become customers of these essential technology providers, at exorbitant prices and on a recurring basis, so that today any product contains its share of cost for the digital giants.
It is not a question here of making a trial of these companies which have only the merit of having been visionaries, precursors and better than all to invent our digital world, taking considerable risks at their start. On the other hand, it is a question of learning lessons and looking to the future and the opportunities that are available to us.
IIoT, Industry 4.0 is not [only] about technology
First, understand that transformation is about business process, not technology. Technology is a new possibility, a new tool that makes it possible to review the processes that are the historical wealth of large groups and industries. This art of optimized execution, of quality above all, of personalized customer service, each leader has built it over the years, at the beginning thanks to the visionaries that the company counted in its ranks, then gradually thanks to to the experience. Each technological transformation leads to chaos: overhauling this experience, without necessarily still having in its ranks the visionaries who built them, without necessarily having available new visionaries capable of driving a transformation.
Then, you have to be ready to transform, ready for change: it’s not about adding a new tool in the hands of employees, but it’s about working differently. It’s about questioning your knowledge, starting to learn again, accepting to go through several failures to achieve a new performance. It is about being aware that transformation is not a choice, not an option but a necessity. It is therefore a question of taking all this as a whole which is not to be entrusted solely to the hands of IT or digital cells but of integrating the personnel departments, lawyers, purchases, commerce, industry… The roles of the IT departments and digital, cells innovations is no less important, due to their regular contact with technology, their often younger age in the company, they are the holders of the understanding of the issues. They are the driving force behind the transformation of minds, their primary role being educational before ultimately taking charge of adapting the company’s tools to the evolution of business processes.
Digital, IoT is about transforming the business relations, IIoT is about transforming itself
If the digital transformation of the company, started in its relationship with its suppliers, its employees and its customers, is no longer a new subject and if in this area companies are in a position to catch up, there are areas in which any industrialist can stand out, regain competitiveness, more recent areas of transformation offering wide opportunities.
The transformation by the IoT is one of these areas, also concerns the relationship between suppliers, employees, customers up to industrial production and if it is a subject in its own right which I often talk about, it requires having made significant progress in its digital transformation to really take advantage of it. Not that we shouldn’t worry about it today, but that there are steps to take first and paths of progress that create more value in the short term.
What is rightly called industry 4.0 or IIoT (Internet of Industrial Objects) in a somewhat abusive way because this transformation is more a matter of digital transformation than of IoT transformation (I will have the opportunity to explain to you why in a future article) consists in exploiting with much more intelligence a data already very present in the industrial world where the M2M (Machine to Machine) has already been present for decades. Industry 3.0 generates a great deal of digital data, industry 4.0 uses it with great intelligence and aims to collect new, more massive data.
Successful IIoT or industry 4.0 transformation has little to do with the deployment of cloud, analytics and AI technologies in the industry itself. These technologies will be necessary, as we have seen previously. The IIoT transformation consists of the transformation of the way of producing, the improvement of quality, the reduction of waste, the improvement of productivity and today in the first place the reduction of its environmental impact which is generally very correlated with the achievement of the previously listed objectives.
Industry 4.0 is about manufacturing data processing
To do this, you have to be able to collect production data, able to process it to produce new knowledge. This knowledge must be acquired as close as possible to the field: to think that information systems will, through the intelligent processing of data, teach industry how to produce better is to make a serious error in the management of change and its transformation. It is essential that the production takes care of the processing of these data, their interpretation and the implementation. This approach has consequences, on the one hand it is necessary to adapt and enrich the production professions but it is also necessary to address this transformation with tools and appropriate support.
The platforms and middleware that have had major success in the digital transformation of companies, put in the hands of IS, expert in the subject and structured to build the business on it, do not have the same capacity to generate success in the transformation. industrial if the business is not able to build its own solutions on it. This is why the choice of this type of platform is key to the success of its transformation.
I will present to you in more detail what they are later, but it is key to retain a few important criteria that make it possible to differentiate them:
The major criterion is their ability to produce value as quickly as possible: motivation in change will pass, as much at the level of the comex as at the level of the operators by the realization of successes, of tangible progress obtained quickly. This objective will be achieved with business solutions covering a particular aspect that you can optimize. Thus very transverse platforms, with many tools but requiring a lot of customization, specific development, on the contrary, risk exhausting the teams before obtaining the first results.
We must not underestimate the complexity of integrating the very large amount of data existing in the factory, it is another key point of transformation projects, grouping this data which is voluminous, diverse and dispersed to exploit them in a piloting smarter, more efficient in your production.
Industry transformation needs industry skills, not IT
It is important to be accompanied by teams who have knowledge of the industry, of your industry as much as possible. They will be better able to quickly understand your business, your environment. They will be able to offer solutions adapted to your level of maturity and attainable targets that will give much more tangible results than what a technology vendor offers. IIoT transformation experts first address the process in a business approach.
Encourage change through the integration of data into daily operational processes to familiarize teams with new tools, new inputs and engage them in a process of change. Engage in a training program, adaptation to changes that begins by understanding the issues and realistic possibilities without falling into the fantasy of magical technology. The challenge is above all to improve performance, which should also lead to improving the daily lives of the teams, making it simpler and more efficient.
Initiating change from the field is a way to get the first results as quickly as possible. It is better to start several projects with distinct approaches or objectives on several sites then more centrally, then consolidate the results with a view to redeploying them than to start with a global approach. The global approach, in digital transformation, affecting often central processes works quite well, but in industrial transformation, it could lead to a much higher level of complexity coming from the diversity of the field, the machines, the processes in place. .
With these few keys in hand, you have an effective starting base for building a 4.0 transformation project that sets you on a path of change with short-term gains. This will allow you to accelerate later and meet the challenges of competitiveness and environmental impact.