Achieving quick wins in digital transformation
There’s no escaping the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the manufacturing industry in Australia. Economic pressures on a scale unseen since wartime are forcing companies to adapt rapidly. Many are scrambling to cut costs, increase efficiency, and accelerate profitability, all while juggling the demands of remote working.
Management teams, who were already under pressure to improve performance, have been rightfully focusing their attention on digital transformation. But as companies now consider their pathway to the next normal, its urgency has become critical, and decisive action is necessary for organisations to position themselves to accelerate strongly out of the downturn.
Even before COVID-19 changed the world though, McKinsey reported that fewer than one-third of organisational transformations succeeded at improving a company’s performance. Lack of digitally savvy leadership, established ways of working, cost, and legacy systems have all added to the challenge of successfully achieving digital transformation.
While these issues can’t be resolved overnight, the good news is that there are still solid opportunities for leaders to realise rapid gains in performance: quick wins that can buy companies time and lay the foundations for progress against a longer-term strategy.
Take advantage of the cloud
The first area that ICT leaders should consider, and potentially where the fastest gains can be made, is optimising systems and processes by migrating to the cloud. Adopting cloud-based infrastructure allows organisations to effectively reduce the complexity of their technology portfolio, and the benefits are substantial: cost savings, greater flexibility, faster time to market, and enhanced performance, to name just a few.
Many companies could make an immediate impact by examining their communications infrastructure. In particular, cloud faxing presents an often overlooked opportunity to make substantial cost savings, streamline workflows, improve efficiency, and tighten up security and compliance.
While faxes might seem like a relic from the past, for many organisations, the reliability, auditability, and security of faxing means that it remains a critical form of communication. Rather than dying out, research by Gartner shows that enterprise use of faxes for high-volume, production fax processes has remained constant and in some cases has even increased.
For companies that still rely on traditional fax servers, the advantages of migrating to the cloud are numerous and substantial.
A key benefit of digitising fax processes is that it enables remote working. Since all that’s needed to send and receive cloud-based faxes is an email address and internet connection, employees can work from anywhere, without the need for a physical fax machine.
Cost savings are immediate and can be significant. Licensing, maintenance, supplies, and other overhead costs associated with running an on-premises fax system are instantly eliminated. Similarly, fax hardware such as servers, fax machines, and fax boards can also be retired, reducing CapEx to zero and freeing up funds for investment into further digital transformation initiatives.
Security and compliance are also strengthened by migrating to a cloud fax provider. Leading providers are able to offer enterprise-grade protection using state-of-the-art technologies. ‘Heavy’ Tier III and IV secure data centres protect customer data round the clock, while TLS encryption secures faxes in transmission. Good providers also offer features that help organisations stay on the right side of regulatory mandates like HIPAA, GLBA, and SOX.
Though possibly one of the most significant long-term gains for manufacturers comes from the opportunity to reimagine processes using the cloud to create a step-change in efficiency and productivity.
Leading cloud fax providers offer a customisable solution that gives organisations a high degree of control over implementation. Flexible APIs and XML software development kits (SDKs) permit easy integration with existing CRM or ERP systems. This makes it possible to automate high-volume faxing from within these systems, with real-time delivery confirmation and robust audit trails that enable documents to be used for legal purposes.
Certain providers facilitate the optimisation of fax workflows with the ability to add optional values to inbound documents — the most common being barcode reading, with in-built support for barcode symbologies such as Code 39 and DataMatrix.
Cloud faxing also gives manufacturers exceptional control over document management. Transmission metadata is automatically added to usage logs and is available online, making it simple to get documents to the right people faster and improve response times.
Be selective in digitising operations
The next area that manufacturers can focus on is unlocking value through improving operations. According to research by BCG, more than 80% of manufacturing companies are actively investing in digital operations.
While changes to physical assets often mean that digitising in this area demands a greater investment of time and capital, companies don’t need to immediately overhaul their production facilities with advanced applications like AI to create value. A more targeted approach can bring quick wins that demonstrate the value of digitisation and generate buy-in from senior leadership to garner investment for future initiatives.
Smart analytics can be used to review existing data to increase the efficiency of maintenance operations and quickly reduce production equipment downtime. Real-time monitoring of assets produces a constant feed of data that lets companies know the moment a piece of equipment performs out of line with expectations, allowing preventative maintenance to be scheduled at a convenient time.
Augmented reality (AR) is successfully being used by leading manufacturers to effectively reduce production downtime. AR glasses allow employees to see digital information projected within the glasses while carrying out tasks and can enable remote experts from vendors or contractors to quickly assist with equipment breakdown.
The remote advisor is able to share the employee’s view and, coupled with real-time metrics, identify the problem and get equipment back up and running without the need to wait for a technician.
AR glasses can also bridge the gap between employees who are forced to work from home during the pandemic, enabling them to guide on-site colleagues to resolve issues and share knowledge through remote advisor video calls.
Automation, sensors, and predictive algorithms can also be used to improve quality control at lower costs, digitally enhancing an often labour-intensive and time-consuming function. Before making real-world changes to assets, manufacturers can use the digital twins concept to assess the impact of proposed initiatives, prove the value of the concept, then scale up.
Many management teams recognise the need to accelerate digital transformation, but with day-to-day operations naturally demanding greater focus at the current time, it can be difficult to get started.
The first step is for leaders to assess the organisation’s level of digital maturity. Then realistic goals can be set while still driving change. The next step is to identify digital measures that’ll enable performance improvement and assess their potential value.
Leaders can then rank measures according to the investment required, the length of time needed to implement them, and the value they’re expected to create.
Remember to factor in possible support from vendors who may be able to handle implementation. Cloud faxing, for example, can be deployed remotely and migration is possible within a matter of days, while leading suppliers of AR glasses are currently offering additional support to companies in adapting to the crisis.
The key is to prioritise the highest-impact measures that’ll quickly create value for the organisation. These quick wins help to increase momentum and secure support for more complex initiatives in the longer-term, positioning the company to thrive beyond the crisis.
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