22 June 2022

5 key steps to digitise your industrial know-how

In the space of 2 years, the number of Google queries for the term "digitalization" has more than doubled. Following the health crisis, companies around the world have suddenly become aware of the importance of accelerating this digital transformation, without which their competitiveness would take a hit. If the theory is relatively simple to understand, the practice is a bit more complex. Some industries have a long way to go, and therefore have a lot to do to move away from "all paper". 

However, digitizing cannot be defined as simply switching from paper to keyboard. In fact, digitizing a business involves using digital solutions whose primary aim is to optimize processes, and enable employees to concentrate on high value-added missions. 

Such a transformation cannot be done overnight. In order to avoid rushing into things, here are 5 ideas that will help you to successfully complete your digitalization project.

industry know-how

Digitization: which direction to take?

Digitizing industrial know-how must enable existing processes to be improved. Therefore, before starting the project, the first step is to precisely define : 

> Why you need to digitize industrial know-how industrial know-how

In other words, what are the concrete reasons for going digital? For example, you may have identified weaknesses in your processes: production costs are too high, it is difficult to keep track of operators' skills, too much time is spent on managing schedules, etc. 

Identifying sufficiently painful reasons will help to involve stakeholders in the project.  

> What are the objectives of this digitisation?

Once you have identified the "why", you must then set the objectives to be achieved. These must be SMART enough : specific (one objective for one problem), measurable, achievable, attainable, and defined in time. For example: 

  • Reduce the number of breakdowns by 50% in the first 6 months.  
  • Spend half the time preparing team schedules as soon as the solution is implemented. 

Communicating on the digitisation project

When processes that have been in place for many years are changed, resistance to change can occur. In fact, a significant number of projects involving changes in working habits fail. This is often due to a lack of communication within the teams. 

It is therefore essential to create cohesion around the project as early as possible.  

The first people to convince are usually the members of management, without whom the project cannot be carried out. You can demonstrate how such a change will have a positive impact on company costs .
Nor should you overlook the importance of employees in the success of the project. Indeed, they are often the first to be affected by the digitization of their industrial know-how. The success of this project therefore also depends on change management, which you should not hesitate to initiate before deployment. 

Review existing processes.

We now know what the objectives are for the digitization of industrial know-how, and how stakeholders support them. So it's time to take stock of existing processes.

To digitize industrial know-how, you need to know what it is. This is not the simplest stage, but it is crucial to the rest of the project. In concrete terms, it involves listing and detailing all the industrial know-how you wish to digitize

As a reminder, know-how is defined as "Competence acquired through experience in practical problems, in the exercise of a trade" (Larousse). 

The aim of this inventory is to list and describe the resources and knowledge required to complete a process. For example: to produce a perfume bottle, we need X machines, which require Y operators with Z skills. We can also assess the current degree of digitalization of each industrial skill. This enables us to define which actions need to be prioritized.

Define the specifications

Digitalization also entails managing digital data, which raises important considerations that need to be addressed in advance. Establishing a specifications document is crucial to provide answers to these questions and define the technical scope. This document will provide details on the technologies suitable for achieving the company's goals.  

Data management is also important to consider. In particular, you will need to define who will have access to the data, where and how it will be stored, how it will be secured etc. 

Planning the digitisation project

At this stage, there is a clear picture of the current situation. The next logical step is to plan the digitisation project. 

In order not to miss any steps, it may be advisable to start with a use case that can quickly demonstrate initial results, and that can be easily deployed on a large scale. 

The planning phase also involves bringing together the right people. In general, the project is carried out by a multidisciplinary team including the management, the CIO (Chief Information Officer), IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) profiles. Including technicians and operators is also a good way to manage change. 

Depending on the complexity of your specifications, it is possible to call upon the skills of an external service provider specialized in the challenges of Industry 4.0. Such a player will be able to support you, from defining the roadmap to large-scale deployment of your new digital tools. 

In summary

The digitization of industrial know-how is accelerating in many sectors. In the industrial sector, it is now synonymous with productivity, thanks to the optimization of business processes. However, going digital requires a clear vision of what already exists, and of the objectives to be achieved. This transition cannot be achieved without strategic thinking, communication (lots of it!) and quality support. 

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