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DIGITALISATION Digitalisation — The what, how and why

May 7, 2019

While the buzz on digitalisation in the industrial sector is undeniable with the rapid pace of innovations in today’s market, we take a close examination of what, how and why we are digitalising. On that note, this article analyses and questions the need for digitalisation, subjecting it towards a larger industry perspective. - Georg Stawowy, Chief Technical Officer, LAPP Holding AG

With an exposure to a plethora of seminars and conferences on the topic of digitalisation as well as listening to a multitude of experts on the same, it is easy to become disoriented. Their bold predictions make it appear as if the future were just around the corner, leaving us rushing to put the necessary processes in place. However, when the microphones are switched off and the hype dies down, we hear many complaining about a digital delusion that offers little benefit to either manufacturers or users.

Quickly incorporating a supposedly smart function into a device, rushing into a Big Data project or sticking sensors wherever you can fit them is no way to prepare for a future that we know is going to be different. Things that sound like vital projects often turn out to be rubbish. Digitalisation has also led to a flood of data that even experienced programmers struggle to deal with. Using digitalisation in a way that actually benefits our customers requires us to completely change processes, products and the way we think in our work.

Digitalisation — Means to an end

Looking for an instance of how digitalisation is not an end in itself, we can consider an example of Amazon. The second most valuable company in the world is often held up as a shining example of digitalisation. While this may be true, it is only half the story. In reality, Amazon is essentially a giant logistics company. We do not order from Amazon because we like their online store but because they can deliver pretty much anything almost always within 24 hours. It is this service that customers want.

The fact that amazon is building its own package collection stations, or their plan to even deliver packages with drones show the company’s real strengths. None of this would be manageable without digitalisation, of course, but digitalisation is only the tool for creating a fast and efficient supply chain — the speed and efficiency are what makes the company successful. Airports are another good example. Here, digitalisation means smart software that can predict the near future and guide processes to make sure all gates have the right staff at the right time to avoid delays. Digitalisation is not a matter of more computers and greater bandwidth but of processes. It is not an end in itself but rather the means for delivering new, specific customer benefits.

Radical action for customer benefit

At LAPP, when we think about digitalisation, we focus squarely on these customer benefits. Just like in Amazon, logistics and supply chain processes are important tools for creating these benefits. Our customers can order thousands of products online and configure our connection solutions themselves (cables, connectors, accessories, fully assembled systems). Our global network of production facilities and warehouses ensures short delivery times. An even faster delivery service would not provide our customers with much additional benefit at present. Identifying products via QR codes, however, is a different matter. This is an area where further digitalisation would be useful.

When it comes to customer benefits, we believe in radical action. Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing, aside from being excellent ways for companies to advertise their excellence, also mean shorter innovation cycles. While this creates pressure to come up with the next disruption in the industry, it is an important aspect of becoming competitive. We do not become a leading player by resisting change. Thus, we have mastered solutions and technology in the field of connections. This is why we are expanding our product range, diving deeper into applications and giving our staff the expertise they need to advise customers. Our goal is to convey power and data quickly and reliably from A to B, in every kind of machine network and for all protocols and standards. This is our promise as a connection specialist.

Driving constant development

Digital giants like, Facebook and Google are all about fast disruption. However, change does not always have to be disruptive — many improvements occur as a result of constant development. Industries like, mechanical engineering are less focused on technology for technology’s sake than they are on applications. The pace of change is often overrated, including when it comes to digitalisation.

We need to stay calm in the face of digital transformation, even if this is not a widespread mindset. The opinion of Peter Drucker is of special significance in this regard, when he stated that there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. This is why we closely examine what, how and why we are digitalising.

From Industry 4.0 to Artificial Intelligence, technology is undoubtedly developing at a breakneck speed. However, genuine progress moves at a snail’s pace. If all we do is follow technical trends, there is a good chance that we will just be running fast in the wrong direction.

Courtesy: LAPP Group

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  • Digitalisation means smart software that can predict the near future and guide processes to
    make sure all gates have the right staff at the right time to avoid delays

  • Georg Stawowy

    Chief Technical Officer

    LAPP Holding AG

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