May 16, 2020

Manufacturing: What it takes to drive transformational change

Digital Transformation
Antony Bourne
5 min
Digital transformation in manufacturing
The digital transformation trend is causing a seismic shift across every industry, where emerging technologies, such as blockchain, automation, augmente...

The digital transformation trend is causing a seismic shift across every industry, where emerging technologies, such as blockchain, automation, augmented reality and IoT/M2M are transforming the way products are made and services are delivered. For the manufacturing sector, robotics and automation have been a core part of the factory for decades, but the real competitive advantage will come from those that are able to use innovative technology to optimise all aspects of the business, from operations through to employee productivity and supply chain efficiencies.

Manufacturers are not afraid of change. Servitization is at the heart of the sector and manufacturers are continually developing new capabilities to provide services and solutions that support their product offering. To this point, a recent Digital Change Survey commissioned by IFS, found that 68 percent of respondents say Servitization is either “well-established and is already paying dividends” or that it is “in progress and is receiving appropriate executive attention and support”. Furthermore, nearly four fifths (79 percent) claim that Servitization gives a competitive advantage or keeps their company abreast of competitors. It should be of little surprise then that manufacturers are bracing themselves for digital transformation.

Of those surveyed, 80 percent regard their businesses as ‘enabled’, ‘enhanced’ or ‘optimised’ to leverage digital technologies. There is consensus that DT is a near-term business priority and company boards are putting their money where their mouths are, with  89 percent of respondents indicating that their business has ‘advantageous’ or ‘adequate’ funding in place for digital projects. The survey found that over a quarter (27 percent) of companies say digital transformation ‘makes them more competitive’, giving them a vital differentiating edge, while 29 percent see the main benefit as ‘accelerating innovation’.

While this is striking, it suggests that companies – not just in manufacturing, but also across oil and energy, aviation, construction and contracting, and service provision industries – have not yet fully grasped the full potential of digital transformation.

Innovation can make or break a company and study after study demonstrates that it as a C-level priority. So why doesn’t it appear to be a driver for digital transformation?  Considering technology investments, this could mean that the majority of funds are invested in making internal processes more effective and thereby failing to enable innovation. If ‘improved internal efficiency’ is the key reason to explore DT, this may be short sighted, as it fails to exploit the strategic benefits and makes it more difficult to win the understanding and commitment of the staff.

Employee engagement and upskilling are pivotal to digital transformation. The survey reveals that 42 percent of respondents view ‘aversion to change’ as the main barrier. Manufacturers therefore need to carefully consider how they position IoT and other disruptive technologies, and explain why they are adopting them and what benefits they will bring, thereby transforming staff from ‘data-phobes’ to data fans.

The most successful technology shifts are embraced from the bottom up, as well as the top down—they’re driven by people. The buy-in from staff is mission-critical. The opportunities for growth and improvement for all need to be communicated clearly and openly. Imagine a service engineer hearing predictive maintenance is to be deployed. “That’s going to put me out of a job” would be a common reaction—even if closer questioning found them in need of new inspiration and working methods and open to new opportunities.

Digital transformation is like many other big change projects all about winning the hearts and minds of the people who are actually going to enter the data or use the system hands-on. It needs to be managed on a human scale. We all understand that no amount of short-term savings will make our jobs, or businesses, more secure if the firm isn’t staying competitive in the long-term. Positioning digital change as a strategic, rather than tactical decision, is vital.

The IFS research, which surveyed 750 organisations globally, found that a third of companies are still ‘unprepared to deal with the digital skills gap’. Smart businesses are already spotting potential data candidates like our service engineer above, who have the appetite and skills to expand their role. How can companies bridge the skills gap affordably, sustainably and creatively?

  • Consider how your organisational structure needs to be developed to foster digital development. For large companies, there is the option of creating new departments dedicated to digital initiatives by hothousing analytic skills and nurturing them in-house;
  • Conduct digital competence inventory: there is a significant need for training staff in managing and analysing data. This must be met for companies to succeed with digital initiatives. Establish what technology in your company is key for development. As part of this digital inventory start earmarking individual staff members who have the drive to upskill;
  • Developing skills properly is paramount. HR teams need to identify which roles need to be transformed and where new talent is needed. Bring in external trainers to provide new perspectives;
  • Work together with local universities, both to attract talent and to influence the schools to focus their education programs in the right areas. Placement schemes offer undergraduates real-life programming experience, growing the firm and the student. Apprenticeship schemes discover local talent and give them support and a place to grow.

There are three elements to succeed with digital transformation—technology, investment and people. The technology aspect is often mastered most successfully, as it is driven by technology experts with clearly dedicated areas of responsibility. The main question is whether you are focusing on the right technology to drive transformation at the right time. Do you want to be the pioneer taking risks or can you afford to stand still and instead jump on the bandwagon when the technology is more mature?

Regarding investments, manufacturers tend to think that they are investing enough in digital transformation, but are they focusing on the right areas? The results indicate that there is a heavy focus on process efficiencies, so there could be a need to steer the focus towards more innovation-focused investments.

Finally, people is the factor that is most often forgotten in the digital transformation process. This is important from both a talent and communications perspective. If over 40 percent of companies view ‘aversion to change’ as the main barrier to embracing digital transformation, employee communications is of utmost importance to make sure that your staff know the purpose of change and how they are affected. 

So it’s high time to ask: Where do you need to focus to strengthen these elements and be successful in your digital transformation?

Antony Bourne is the Vice President of Global Industry Solutions at IFS.

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Jun 17, 2021

Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router

3 min
Siemens’ first industrial 5G router, the Scalancer MUM856-1, is now available and will revolutionise the concept of remote control in industry

Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age. 


Siemens Enables 5G IIoT

The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

Siemens presents its first industrial 5G router.
Siemens presents the Scalance MUM856-1.

The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.


Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance


  • Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
  • The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
  • A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
  • Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites


5G Now

“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.


Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said. 


Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future

Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’ 


And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.


The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.


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