3 Lessons Learned on a Real-World Journey Toward Digital Transformation

smart, connected manufacturing

There’s no single part number that lets you “buy” digital transformation; no specific path you can follow to get you there quickly. But learning from people who have hands-on experience in making digital transformation happen can help you focus on best practices and avoid pitfalls.

We recently caught up with Bob Murphy, vice president of Connected Enterprise Consulting at Rockwell Automation. Based on more than four decades of real-world experience, he shared three lessons he learned as his organization developed its own roadmap to becoming smarter and more connected.

1. Digital Transformation Can Reshape Capital Expenses
Data and analytics accelerate smart manufacturing and digital transformation. They can also shine a spotlight on the areas in need of capital investment (and areas where wasteful spending is occurring). Instead of each department fighting for dollars as purchasing decisions are made, you can simply turn to the data to make these determinations. Decision-making becomes more about facts and less about feelings, emotions, and “we’ve always done it that way.”

What’s your defect rate – and does it need to improve? Check the data. It can tell you. You’ll be able to move away from legacy investments you’ve always made and instead be ready to put capital dollars toward initiatives that can help deliver the best value and improve performance. In other words: Your money will go to the most critical aspects of the manufacturing process.

2. It’s Crucial to Keep Departments Aligned During Digital Transformation
Although technology plays an obvious role in digital transformation, so do your people, organizational dynamics, and culture. Your ears should be wide open to what workers across departments have to say.

For example, consider OT and IT: They likely have different priorities and objectives, but each can offer valuable input and should be aware of how digital-transformation outcomes may be beneficial to both groups.

The data you capture as part of your digital transformation may seem useful on the surface, but it can only be used effectively if your employees are organizing, managing, and sharing it. This is another reason why it’s important for teams to be on the same page: The data collected in one area may very well impact another.

Instead of taking on digital transformation as a part-time endeavor, consider forming small execution groups made up of representatives from different departments, including IT and OT. Explain why decisions can’t be made in a vacuum – and why all groups have a stake in digital transformation.

3. Digital Transformation Can Attract New Levels of Talent

Digital transformation can (and should) alter how your work gets done – from product design to the tools you use every day. This shift can make it hard to adapt (especially for those who don’t love change); it takes time and patience for people to get acclimated to and comfortable with new ways of working. But it’s worth the effort.

Not only will digital transformation provide payback in terms of resiliency, cost reduction, improved communication, and simplified integration of new technology, but it will also help you meet new expectations from the up-and-coming workforce.

As many people in manufacturing approach retirement, fresh workers are entering the industry. They excel in the world of smart devices and want data at their fingertips. Remember, decades ago, when you could check on manufacturing processes simply through sight, smell, touch, and sound? Without data, the speed and complexity of today’s processes have made it nearly impossible to know what’s really going on. When they come to work for you, that’s the kind of information this new generation of workers will expect. Moving toward digital transformation now can help you recruit and retain talented employees in the future.

Want to hear more about lessons learned during digital transformation from Bob Murphy? Watch what he had to say on demand below.


TRANSFORM – A Leadership Series Addressing the Challenges and Opportunity of Modern Manufacturing

This blog is based on insights shared during the first webinar in Van Meter’s virtual series called TRANSFORM. Running from Sept. 3 through Nov. 12, 2020, the series is focused on smart manufacturing and digital transformation. Every week, these webinars connect you with industry peers who share their digital-transformation experiences and the approaches they took to get there. Then sign up for future webinars or check out other on-demand recordings in our series here.

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Spadaro joined Van Meter in 2017 and has spent more than 24 years in the automation industry.