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Digital transformation excellence: Lessons from manufacturing leaders

Learn secrets to success from Microsoft Envision 2017

When we first started talking about digital transformation opportunities, some questioned whether the inherently conservative manufacturing industry was ready for change. Would manufacturing leaders be willing to re-envision their existing business models and embrace a different way of bringing together people, data, and manufacturing processes to create value for their customers?

We heard the answer to this question—a resounding yes—at this year’s Envision, Microsoft’s flagship event for business leaders. I was very pleased to host a diverse panel discussion on Executing Excellence in Digital Manufacturing featuring manufacturing experts from ABB Management Services, Daimler, The Dow Chemical Company and Jabil. These leaders showed how they are moving full speed ahead, evolving their organizations and pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Beyond the huge opportunities for revenue growth, cost efficiencies and enhanced work quality, each panelist expressed a desire to stay relevant. No one wants to be blindsided by disruption, whether from a competitor or the unknown. Here is a brief recap of their stories, including lessons learned on their journey to transformation of the manufacturing process and their secrets to success.

Digital factory creates new ecosystems of intelligence at Jabil

Matt Behringer, vice president of operations-digital factory, Jabil, shared how his team is leading with a digital, intelligent, and predictive factory that delivers a high prediction accuracy rate. The company’s plant floor quality assurance solution analyzes real-time problems and defects, while also identifying errors or failures before they even occur. Their solution is based on Microsoft Machine Learning, Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Analytics and big data analytics.

Matt says a key challenge is they have tons of data—but not a lot of information. By creating an organization that blends IT and operations, Jabil is seeing a difference in how they are driving their transformation efforts. He also credits the ability to adopt the cloud on their own terms, using Azure. It enables them to bring the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to an on-premises environment.

Dow embraces Manufacturing 4.0  

Mario Ferket, IT director, The Dow Chemical Company, agreed that the challenge is not in finding the data, but ensuring its usefulness. Wanting the insights provided by digital transformation to secure Dow’s leadership position, Mario’s team is focusing on three areas: simplicity and productivity for their people, market growth through market listening and intelligence, and exploring new business models.

One new model Mario cited is Dow’s development of specialized agriculture products that maximize crop yields in local conditions. Using Azure, team members can gain real-time access to specialized apps and data from anywhere, even farmers’ fields. With Manufacturing 4.0 a big initiative at Dow, they are exploring new opportunities to drive innovation.

ABB creates largest digital industrial ecosystem

Another panelist pursuing a wide range of digital opportunities is Rami Jokela, group vice president, ABB Management Services, Ltd. Microsoft has a long-standing partnership with ABB, which includes digital transformation innovations to create one of the world’s largest open, digital industrial ecosystems to empower customers, partners, suppliers and developers.

As the head of ABB’s digitalization group, Rami is responsible for collaborating with all business units of ABB Ability that enable the company and its customers to make the most of their digital journeys. Rami’s team is working to accelerate outcomes so that ABB can see results faster. Rami shared that they transformed a mine site that was supposed to close into one of the most efficient mines around the globe, with strong productivity improvements.

Connected vehicles at Daimler

Like other panelists, Ulli Rix, chief product owner, Daimler Fleetboard GmbH, Digital Solutions Mercedes-Benz Trucks, also wanted to gain an edge on the disruptive forces transforming the industry. Partnering with Microsoft, Ulli launched a new business unit with the goal of achieving big results in a short period of time. Recently, the Daimler Trucks of EMEA team launched their connected vehicle solution to provide mobility services to B2B customers, primarily transport companies and carriers.

I’d like to thank Rami, Ulli, Mario and Matt for sharing their insights. Hearing their real-world examples of digital transformation was inspiring, but we’ve just scratched the surface here. I encourage you to watch the full video of our session to learn tips for organizing teams to support the factory of the future, trends on data collection, and best practices for creating a culture that drives manufacturing process transformation and attracts hard-to-find talent. You’ll also take away a sense of urgency to act—the time for transformation is now.

Manufacturing is by far the largest generator of digital data so it’s exciting to see the industry growth taking place. Research shows that 70 percent of manufacturers plan to put operations at the forefront of digital transformation by 2020. Another statistic proving the vital pace of new digital projects: CEOs expect digital revenue to double over the next five years, from 22 percent to 41 percent.

Kickstart your digital transformation journey by checking out the rest of our manufacturing sessions from Envision and then contact us when you’re ready to move forward.


Twitter: @sanrav