What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation, also called digitalization or digitization, is when an organization integrates digital tools, workflows, and approaches into every aspect of the business. Digitalization is relevant for every industry and vertical, helping companies become more agile, efficient, and value-driven.
Digital transformation often goes along with Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, Industrial IoT, AI, and machine learning, but it involves more than simply adopting digital tools. It affects people, processes, and technology. Digitization includes steps like replacing manual processes with digital ones, automating workflows, and connecting teams and departments, but it goes beyond them too.
Digital transformation is best understood as a culture shift that alters the operational norms of every department, causing everyone to accept constant change and to work in a more connected way across the entire organization. Applying predictive analytics is one way of bringing digitalization into your process plant.
Why does digitization matter to process plants?
Digital transformation enables process plants to:
- Automate manual processes to save time, reduce human error, and increase safety
- Predict fluctuations in demand and supply
- Become more responsive to last-minute changes in customer orders
- Improve the consistency and quality of product
- Meet demand for customized product runs and smaller batches without increasing costs
- Offer better customer service and smoother communication
- Increase accuracy in estimating expenses and keep budgets under control
- Reduce unexpected part failures and plant downtime
- Develop a culture of innovation
- Refine maintenance schedules
- Cut emissions and wasted resources, including energy, water, and raw materials
- Become more resilient in the face of unexpected crises
- Gain visibility into the entire supply chain
- Attract the next generation of top talent
- Democratize access to data insights that drive better decision-making
How can process plants see the fullest impact of digitalization?
Instigate a culture shift
Digital transformation can only succeed with the willing participation of the entire workforce. Educate employees about the benefits of digitization, but be honest about the changes they can expect and the challenges ahead, so that they will put up with short-term disruption in exchange for long-term benefits.
Map your organization
Your next step is to map all your existing tools, workflows, and processes to identify which areas are most in need of digital attention. You want to begin with the areas that will show the fastest return on your investment, but you can’t do that without surveying them first.
Remove barriers across the organization
Data silos, isolated teams, and barriers between departments are serious obstacles to digitization success. Look for anything that keeps workflows and teams apart and find ways to remove them.
Plan a whole-organization transformation
It can be tempting to begin by digitizing just one area of the business and then moving on to another. However, the most overall value is gained by applying digital transformation to streamline workflows across disciplines. It’s fine to start with the area that needs it most, as long there is a plan in place to go cross-organization, to eliminate silos, which are the antithesis to digital transformation.
Ensure you have the right personnel
People play an integral role in digital transformation. Many enterprises choose to bring in an external consultant to guide and direct the entire process. You might need to hire new staff for emerging tasks, like data scientists and analysts, and it’s very likely that you’ll have to train numerous employees in new digital skills and tools.
What are the benefits of digital transformation for process plants?
When process plants adopt digital transformation, they can improve productivity, profitability, and quality across the organization. Digitally transformed plants are more agile, resilient, and flexible, with greater insight into market changes, plant conditions, and customer demands that allows them to make proactive business decisions instead of chasing fires.