Data is power and capital in the digital world. Data can provide the basis for new services, can be used for the development of existing products or the creation of new ones, and can enable us to learn more about our customers, enhance existing customer relationships or discover new markets. Manufacturing industry has traditionally been about selling machines and devices, while life cycle services tend to cover after-sales service and the sale of spare parts. The digital revolution is transforming old practices and turning the business environment and work at the customer interface upside down.
Data is easy to collect and store, but little is being done to exploit it in the development of business activities or of products, services and processes. This is due to the fragmented nature and uneven quality of the data collected and a lack of the required analytical skills. Companies are often still unclear about what, or what kind of, data they hold. Sensibly combining data of various quantities and from various sources is difficult. Companies may also be unclear about the quality or value of the data they hold.
Using digital technology to transform services into service businesses has become topical among SMEs in the manufacturing sector. A huge challenge lies in transforming into a digital business on the one hand, and making the leap from being a product manufacturer to a service business on the other. Thought must be given to the ramifications of such a change for the firm’s management, operations, tasks, skill requirements and cooperation, whether internally or at company-network level. Issues to be considered include how structural and functional changes and the adoption of new skills can be planned and implemented in a managed way that keeps employees on board with the transformation. However, digitalisation is not an end in itself – solutions must also be considered from the perspective of added value for the customer and business.
Digitalisation also offers new solutions and business models for firms engaged in developing their productivity and turnaround times. Maximal use of 3D models and digital information throughout the supply chain should be explored at the design-production interface. Interfaces between companies and systems are challenging; digital communications often fail to cross such interfaces, while the same data is fed several times into multiple systems within silos. By analysing the flow of information within the order-delivery process, an overall picture can be obtained of the consistency of data flows, and of the cost effects of information blockages on general productivity.
The Smart Machines and Manufacturing Centre (SMACC) of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and Tampere University of Technology focuses on the challenges posed for manufacturers, particularly SMEs, by the digital transformation. Experts from SMACC have developed tools and methods using which companies can quickly build an overall picture of the potential offered by digitalisation from both the business and technology perspective, as well as a clear roadmap for taking the digital leap and for the practical implementation of what follows.
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