Digital Transformation has become a rather common term in business conversations. There are many ways in which an organization can realize a digital transformation. It does not need to be expensive or complex. A digital transformation can be something simple, like digitizing current paper documents or adding workflow systems. At its core, digital transformation is about resolving inefficiencies across your organization. These inefficiencies usually involve the movement of people, paper and data. Below are a few examples of how you can approach your digital transformation with minimal effort and investment.
Save a Tree
There are many business forms that continue to exist in a paper format. Transforming these into a digital form serves to eliminate paper, but also allows you to capture data in real time. In this process data entry moves from a clipboard to a tablet. Documents are no longer placed in a filing cabinet. The information is available to you immediately (you no longer have to go looking for it, either). To ensure data quality, the digital forms can also include rules for acceptable ranges and notifies the user of a potential data error. When the data is captured, that data can be used immediately by other systems which enhances your overall real-time information effort.
Increase your Flexibility
It is common for production schedules to be done on a spreadsheet and printed for production. Using a digital production planning systems allows you to make production changes in real time. The costs for these systems, commonly known as a manufacturing execution system (MES), have dramatically dropped in the last few years. There are more companies providing them and the complexity to install and integrate the system is significantly less. The application of a workflow tool allows you to be flexible with it, too. Only business and operational rules continue to exist within the MES. The workflow tool allows the flexibility to support how work is done across the enterprise. This makes for quicker deployment and enables process changes to be made quickly in the future
Where’s that Report?
Another common use for spreadsheets is for generating reports. I often comment that the most popular reporting tools is a spreadsheet. Digitizing reports allow for quick retrieval with multiple stakeholders. Moreover, business rules can trigger the sending of these reports and they can be viewed by several people at the same time. A common example of this is a clean-in-place (CIP) report that is sent out at the end of a cycle. Rather than the daily production reports making is way across the office on paper, people can view it when convenient and drill into it to review areas of interest.
Somebody Should have Told Me
A digital transformation can include the addition of a notification system. Through the use of the aforementioned workflow tool, additional stakeholders can receive notifications based on defined production events. Consider the notification of maintenance when there is a downtime event. A notification system provides this functionality automatically. The system can be expanded to include additional stakeholders as needed. For instance if the line continues to be down for 15 minutes, the team leader will be notified. Should it continue for over 2 hours, operations will be notified as this may impact overall production (now would be a good time for a flexible scheduling tool). Finally, if an expected order is not completed, customer service could provide a proactive notification about the status of an order.
How are We Doing?
I have walked into many plants that have a bulletin board that is full of many types of KPIs. I am often amused at how out of date some of these reports are. With a digital transformation effort, real-time dashboards can be propagated across the plant and viewed in context by the stakeholder’s interest. Finance can view financial results. Operations can view product reports and key production data. Leadership would have a dashboard that presents all of the data with the ability to drill into areas of interest. Again, these would all be delivered in real time using data that is readily available.
As you can see, there are many aspects to a digital transformation. All of them serve to improve overall operational efficiency. They do not need to be complex comprehensive efforts. They do not have to require a significant investment in either software or implementation. The best part is that the realized gains can then be applied to fund future digital transformations.