May 16, 2020

Top four enablers for digital and analytics transformation

Smart Manufacturing
Georgia Wilson
5 min
Manufacturing Global takes a look at how the heavy-industry manufacturing sector can make the most of digital and analytical transformation.

Within the...

Manufacturing Global takes a look at how the heavy-industry manufacturing sector can make the most of digital and analytical transformation.

Within the heavy-industry manufacturing industry, digital and advanced analytics technology has significant potential to improve operations. In order to unlock this potential on a large scale companies need to harness a systematic approach to successfully identify, develop and roll out solutions that offer the most value. 

McKinsey highlights that the best approach to achieve this is subject to the organisation. It will depend on the current digital maturity of an organisation, its goals and the nature and distribution of the opportunities.

However, there are four critical enablers every organisation needs in some form for every digital initiative. Together these enablers comprise an engine to power any heavy manufacturer’s successful digital and analytics transformation. 


Recent advances made in software and hardware, has vastly improved accessibility and usability of new technologies. However, successful application still requires people who understand the capabilities and limitations of digital approaches.

With digital innovation rapidly evolving, digital projects often require new capabilities and new roles. These projects require three core elements in order to be successful:

  • People with expertise in a company’s products and production processes

  • Technology specialists in software development, robotics and automation

  • Digital specialists to run agile projects or design an effective user experience

However, these projects frequently require people’s skills to be able to bridge all three elements:

Access to this talent can be a roadblock for digital projects, with the current wave of digitalisation happening around the world skilled data scientists and technical scientists are in short supply. While external hiring is still a necessity, to fill the capability gap in order to begin digital projects, many are looking to develop in-house skills, not to replace PhD-trained data scientists, but to produce skilled and competent digital practitioners who will be essential for the application of new tools. 


Those embarking on large scale digital and analytics transformation, may look to set up a digital academy dedicated to the development of skills across the entire organisation. These in-house academies also make it easier to deliver specific training on a just-in-time basis, which can be applied immediately.


Most heavy-industry manufacturing organisations have the data needed, but the requirement to extract that data and unify large quantities of data in an accessible form is something new. 

McKinsey, states that many organisations fear that digital transformation will require a complete rework of their entire existing data infrastructure which is costly, complex and prone to failures. However the company assures that the reality is very different, with modern data platforms or integration systems having the ability to be set up as a new layer, sitting above the existing system, interacting flexibly.

Though some may require additional actions prior to integrating, it is important to remember that to avoid failures and minimise costs, organisations should gradually integrate data that is needed for ongoing projects.

Once the data is understood, organisations need to ensure that they can manage it. This requires the stablishment of governance policies and processes, as well as standardisations.

Something which is frequently underestimated is data quality as a challenge. In order to get the best value from data, organisations need to ensure that they understand the characteristics of the data, having processes to identify and manage missing or erroneous data. Organisations also need a systematic process to identify potential risks and define appropriate mitigation actions and improvements when handling data.



McKinsey notes that it is common for companies to take a technology first perspective when it comes to digital transformation. In order to be successful and see value from a digital project, organisations in the first instance need to define the problem, access the appropriate data and then integrate the best technological solutions for the problem in order to see the best outcome. 

It is also worth noting that not all digital approaches require significant technological upgrades. Many existing manufacturing sites can be tuned or reconfigured to deliver additional value via insights from machine learning systems or other similar technology.

However, more important than a digital tool is an organisation's ability to support the use of the tool, as the use of open-source technology increases. Companies need to be careful to not make their existing functions obsolete due to continuous updates of hte technology.

Technology tools selected by an organisation should reflect its working environment and should be standardised across the operations wherever possible, however McKinsey stresses that this shouldn;t keep organisations from improving their technologies. 

“The digital space is fast-moving, with new solutions emerging all the time. Since frontline teams don’t have the time to keep scanning the market, it’s useful to establish a corporate group with responsibility for identifying and evaluating promising technologies. Or to build an ecosystem of collaborative relationships with a select group of technology providers.”


As organisations look to implement digital and analytic transformation within their operations, many have abandoned the traditional waterfall engineering methodology, replacing it with an agile approach. At first this can be challenging, however an agile approach delivers a more incremental and continuous improvement cycle for lean manufacturing. 

However in order to become more agile, organisational structures and ways of working will need to change to accommodate this method.

For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

image source: McKinsey

Share article

May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing


What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Share article