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News Article

Digitalization is a Mindset: Experts

By Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 05/26/2021 - 16:54

You can watch the video of this panel here.

Digitalization in the industrial world is not as simple as in other businesses, as it also requires a strong organizational commitment and culture shift, agreed experts during Mexico Business Forum 2021 Virtual Edition held on May 26. Tridi Additive Manufacturing, Honeywell Latin America, Rockwell Automation, KPMG and Alian Plastics addressed the elements surrounding a successful digital transformation strategy for manufacturing companies.

Digitalization is Not a Trend but a Need

"Different studies showed that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies globally. In the industrial sector, project implementation and production supervision benefit from these technologies," said Gustavo Zecharies, Regional Vice President of Latin America at Rockwell Automation. Manuel Macedo, CEO & President of Honeywell Latin America, agreed and stated that "The pandemic tested our adaptability skills and how quickly we embrace change. It also brought us unexpected benefits as it prompted innovation and technology adoption, which have greatly influenced operations continuity across different sectors. Digital transformation far from a trend is a need."

Argenis Bauza, Digital Lighthouse Partner Mexico and Central America at KPMG, highlighted that digitalization trends were already happening before the pandemic. Companies acted very differently on the onset of digitalization. Some fully reset their business models, while others recovered at different speeds. However, e-commerce platforms were the big winners. Alian Plastics, a manufacturing company that incorporated Industry 4.0 principles into its operations, said that digitalization drove it to seek strategic partnerships and level up existing goals. "Digitalization offers a competitive advantage for organizations across different sectors given the specific needs of each niche," said its CEO, Felipe Villareal.

Dos and Do nots of Digital Transformation at Manufacturing Facilities

There is not a single digitalization strategy as experts agreed that digital transformation can incorporate different conceptions for different business models, sectors and even within a company's internal departments. "Digital transformation is not an easy process to endure. For some, digital transformation might imply being paperless or cashless. Others can understand it as a data-driven transformation while, for some it would only mean remote work," said Sebastian Romo, CEO & Co-Founder of Tridi Additive Manufacturing.

Digital transformation also involves a fundamental organizational shift that goes beyond technology, industry leaders agreed. "Some key areas of a digitalization strategy are as simple as organization structure. The lack of common operation goals might delay digitalization. Advanced companies talk about technology as a whole, rather than separate technologies," says Rockwell. KPMG agreed: "Digital transformation is pushed by business challenges that need to be solved. Digital transformation is a business transformation that is based on digital tools."

From the experience of a manufacturing company enduring the digital transformation process, the cultural shift is the most important challenge. "Organizational culture is the first challenge to overcome. Leaders need to sell the digital transformation idea to their collaborators through clear objectives. If a person used to write down production reports now is asked to use digital tools, it implies a cultural shift. Clear objectives are then essential," said Villareal.

Important Elements Surrounding Digital Transformation

As in other business strategies, the customer should remain at the center of a company's digitalization plans. "A comprehensive digitalization strategy only makes sense when it places the needs of the customers first," said Honeywell’s Macedo. "Digital transformation is about how to deliver more value to our customers," agreed Tridi's Romo.

Additive manufacturing is a development that can strongly advance greater levels of digitalization. Bauza explains that for a manufacturing company there are four types of influx: material, information, cash and relationships. "In Latin America we are focused on material flux but information flux remains important not only in the form of market intelligence but also in new technologies. An information flux can imply sending the file of a spare part to be printed at our customers facilities in a remote location,” said Bauza." Tridi, a Mexican company specialized in 3D printing, had previously discussed the benefits of additive manufacturing across different manufacturing sectors with MBN. There are, however, some sectors that are prime candidates for this technology, explained Romo. “Overall, this technology would be most beneficial for companies in the aerospace and heavy-vehicle markets that work with small production volumes, substituting molds for direct manufacturing especially in rapidly changing or highly customable environments," said Romo to MBN.

Creativity and talent remain important aspects of a digital transformation strategy. "Talent and productivity go hand in hand. In Latin America there is still a productivity gap and it is important that both the public and the private sectors come together to fill it," said Macedo. Rockwell’s Zecharies agreed and stated that "When incorporating new talent, we should look for minds that are digital-transformation oriented." Without a doubt, new generations should bring creativity and a change-oriented mind, said Bauza. "I'm surprised about how new generations have a mindset prompt toward the digital transformation. We need the right people and talent," said Bauza.

Overall, there is no question that digital transformation can bring success for a company when properly conducted. "Digital transformation starts with a cultural shift. Our experience has been to use digital tools to innovate our business model and create a more robust company that can serve a diverse customer portfolio from  the toy sector to the light vehicle manufacturing," said Felipe Villareal.


You can also read: Revenue, Profitability, Cost-Reduction: Goals of Digital Journeys

Photo by:   MBN
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst