Digitisation is the key to navigating economic uncertainty

David Pownall, VP Services at Schneider Electric UK and Ireland explores the role of digital innovation in combatting concerns over the cost of decarbonisation and sustainability.

Digitisation is the key to navigating economic uncertainty

For many companies, taking the first steps on a digital transformation journey can be a daunting prospect. Overwhelmed by large upfront costs, complex implementation and a demand for new skills and talent, some choose to stick with what they know. And in tough economic times, this challenge can seem even more unachievable.

However, the benefits of digitisation are unrivalled for companies of any size. In fact, investing in digital capabilities could add £33bn to the UK’s national output and boost growth by 2.8% by 2030. These capabilities range from driving intelligent operations and high-performance processes to rapid innovation, optimising physical assets, and reducing emissions. The ability to make more with less and increase energy efficiency is becoming more important for industrial players, thus digital transformation is becoming a critical success factor in many industries.

However, 69% of industrial manufacturers say they are in the early, definition, or pilot stage of transformation initiatives or are stuck in the pilot phase without clear results. The key to digitisation success and excelling across these capabilities is data. By working with a trusted partner and investing in the assessment of existing systems in place, businesses can unlock the power of their data and create a roadmap for digitisation.

The key benefits of digitisation

For industrial businesses, digitisation can spark improvements in productivity, agility, sustainability, and resource efficiency. By implementing a robust digital transformation strategy, businesses can react to issues at speed and from any location, saving on costs and keeping operations running efficiently.

There are four key areas where digitisation will bring real benefits to industrial organisations. First, by collaborating effectively between all players in the value chain, they can boost overall productivity, agility, and resource efficiency. Next, thanks to the implementation of digital tools that converge power and automation, industrial businesses can enable data-based decisions. This includes sensors and monitors that give companies the data to analyse every step of the supply chain process, improve overall performance, and find ways to reduce emissions and waste. Digitisation can also enable companies to react to issues remotely and at speed, keeping operations running smoothly, in some cases even saving on labour costs.  Finally, digitisation enables predictive maintenance, with leaders able to monitor and plan for possible faults, fixing them before they become an issue.

What makes a trusted digitisation partner?

Data plays a crucial role in digitisation, but there is another piece to the puzzle – partners. Selecting a partner that an organisation can trust and rely on, and that covers the full range of digitisation needs, is key to getting the most out of data and solutions.

Partners can help to deploy and align technology and assist with the delivery of services via trained and experienced staff across the globe. They can help in scaling and executing transformation projects, ensuring that their tried-and-tested approach to digital transformation is successfully implemented internally, and works effectively with customers across industries externally. Partners also help to eliminate silos and integrate all company data, overlaying automation to enhance operations and energy management, and identify ways to make the business more sustainable.

A key factor to consider when selecting partners is consultancy.  Using specialised partners who can offer their expertise across full electrical infrastructure, asset management, maintenance, and manufacturing areas, is vital for industrial organisations. Instead of just focusing on one area of the site, effective partners in this sector can provide vendor-agnostic advice across the entire operation, thus identifying smart ways to save time, reduce costs, and minimise waste. If industrial companies could work with a partner who has done, and is continuing to do, industrial digital transformation and improved sustainability itself, then they would have a greater chance of success.

Elements of successful industrial digital transformation

Digital transformation isn’t just limited to operational efficiency and production. Through remote monitoring of equipment, leaders can assess asset performance and contextualise data. What’s more, access to more data allows for easier governance and change management, helping companies stay up to date with the latest standards, as well as enabling easier measuring of progress towards sustainability goals.

Industrial organisations must also consider their IT and OT cybersecurity and securing their infrastructure. With IoT sensors increasing and more devices connected to the network, ensuring that every endpoint is safe minimises the risk of cyberattacks. With a better picture of their data, businesses can also manage their energy use more efficiently, address sustainability challenges, and reduce CO2 emissions.

A global vision

Delivering digital transformation on a global scale can be a challenge. Whilst technological advancements have helped speed up certain processes, physically shipping and delivering goods has become an issue for many businesses across the globe. For instance, global supply chains have faced many obstacles in recent years due to the geopolitical crisis, staff strikes, and the pandemic – so local supply chains have become more important than ever.

Reconciliation of a global vision depends on effective execution on a local level. The key enablers are technologies, skilled or upskilled talent, effective methodologies and hiring or working alongside partners that are experts in digital transformation. Finding global success comes from the top down to set expectations and explain the vision, and from the bottom up to gain the buy-in of all employees. It is about laying the foundations to build digitisation in a sustainable way, and this is why having local partners is more important than ever.

Although now may seem like a difficult time to implement digital transformation with the impact of economic struggles and global complexities, it is important to get ahead. With 94% of industrial companies saying digital transformation will have a big impact on their operations in the next 2-3 years, getting it right will be imperative. It’s about assessing where the organisation is in its digitisation process, identifying where it can get the most out of its data and choosing the right partner for the journey.

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