Your one-stop web resource providing safety and security information to manufacturers
By Gregory Hale
Here we are continuing a movement into the age of digital transformation and companies within the manufacturing automation sector are beginning to step up their game plan but the underlying message is it all has to be secure.

“Why do we need to digitally transform? If you don’t you will be at risk to be “out competed” in the market,” said Nihar Satapathy, senior vice president at thyssenkrupp North America during his keynote presentation Tuesday at the ARC Industry Forum 2019. “On one side, you have stronger computing power, lower cost of data transfer, and cost of sensors are lower. Customers are changing, auto companies are doing things like car sharing vs. owning.”

“We find ourselves having to compete every day in terms of being digital,” Satapathy said. “We are trying to stay one step ahead from everybody else. We focus on customer value ad. New technologies are allowing you to have new business models.”

The digital age is allowing manufacturers to take advantage of the digital age, but cybersecurity plays such a major role.

What is becoming clear is every industry infrastructure has to understand how to develop and plan for digital transformation,” said Mike Guilfoyle, research director at ARC during his keynote on Tuesday. But he also said what goes without saying, “You can’t do anything digital without cybersecurity.”

Cyber Security

In terms of the new age of connectivity, Satapathy gave a mini case history of the elevator business.

In the old days an elevator transported people or objects from floor to floor, but today, with new technologies, “you are turning elevators into a constant communicating device always relaying news on its status.”

“The goal in the elevator business is maximum uptime all the time,” Satapathy said.

By adding in sensors being able to connect to computing systems and introducing predictive maintenance, “the lines from what we used to do in selling elevators is now blurring. Data will be the currency in the future,” he said. “Flows of people in a building can be gathered from the elevator. You have to look at what the elevator has become. Is it a vehicle to transport people or is it something to get more information about the building?”

It is easy to become enamored with the potential of digital and fall into installing technology for the sake of technology, but Larry Megan, director at Praxair Digital looks at digital transformation with a sense of practicality.

“It is hard to sort out what is hype and what is reality,” Megan said. “How are we going to best focus our time? We know the promise is great, but sometimes we are faced with technical debt and organizational debt. When you think about digital transformation, it is really whatever it means to you. What are you at today? Where do you want to go? You have to decided what that means to you.”

The real goal for any kind of technology is to see how it can advance the company.

“Use digital technologies to move the business forward,” Megan said. “Where are we at and where are we going to go? Don’t get too hung up on the definitions and understand what you are going to do to move your business forward.

In terms of developing a digital strategy, Megan offered a few tips:
• Never start with technology
• Feel your customer’s experience
• Build foundational platforms
• Emphasize products over projects. “We are not just developing a project and forget about it when it is done. We are creating a product that needs development over time that needs updating and fixes.”

“Digitalization is not about being more digital. The reality is it is not about being more digital, it is about changing how work gets done. Most technology projects don’t fail because of technologists could not manage change, it is how we failed to manage change within the organization.”

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