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Pandemic challenges manufacturers to balance digital investments

by Peter Smyth Tech Journalist
23rd Nov 20 11:20 am

Coronavirus is providing a strong incentive for manufacturers to move toward smart factories, complete with remote and experience-based solutions, and optimized operations, cost structures and business models, says an expert in smart manufacturing with Information Services Group (ISG), leading global technology research and advisory firm.

“Some manufacturers were fast to react to the onset of the pandemic with one-off cost-cutting initiatives,” said Christian Decker, partner and ISG EMEA lead, Smart Manufacturing.

“A more sustainable approach is to include digital initiatives as a portfolio of investments, and let the cost optimization self-fund innovation, with limited additional cash outlay required. This approach will spur the continued evolution of digital technologies to sustain competitive operations.”

Decker will host ISG TechXchange: Smart Manufacturing, a one-day virtual experience on 1 December that will explore the evolving role of Industry 4.0 in a post-pandemic world, the emergence of smart factories and smart customers, and how new technologies can help enterprises stay competitive in a global market.  

“Smart manufacturing spans the value chain from smart products to smart production and services, from the shop floor to enterprise resource planning solutions and the cloud,” said Decker. “Smart factories leverage new technologies and exploit captured data from products, machines and processes to increase efficiency.”

Andi Christl, radio host of Bayerischer Rundfunk, will emcee the event. The opening keynote presentation, “Advantage Through Knowledge,” will be delivered by Markus Hofmann, a renowned memory expert and director of the Steinbeis Transfer Institute of Advanced Risk Technologies at Steinbeis University Berlin. Hofmann studies how executives can train their memory to access crucial details, from names and faces to facts about market developments.

Frank Piller, professor of management and head of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management at RWTH Aachen University, will deliver a second keynote presentation, “Industry 4.0 in the Post-COVID Economy -The Future of Digital Business Models for Smart Manufacturing.” Piller will present a set of propositions for drafting smart manufacturing strategies as the pandemic fundamentally changes industrial value creation and necessitates business models that leverage the full technological opportunities of Industry 4.0.

Commenting on Industry 4.0 technologies, Decker notes that “IoT devices have helped organizations preserve revenue streams during this pandemic. As a result, enterprises in a post-COVID world will likely demand more smart manufacturing products and solutions. For example, collaborative robots and IT systems that help reduce on-site plant-floor employees address manpower deficits during social distancing requirements. The future is here, but only the savviest businesses will bring it to its full potential.”

A panel discussion on implementing a world-class IT system will ask Claudio Mandiratta, global IT sourcing manager for Hitachi ABB Power Grids, about developing a successful smart manufacturing strategy. Christina-Dorothea Schlichting, head of the group information security program at Volkswagen, will share strategies for developing an integrated security approach, and keynote speaker Markus Hofmann will participate in a panel discussion on combining products, services, data, technology and partners in new ways, to drive new net-revenue streams.

Additional panel discussions will explore aligning stakeholders for customer value; how to remain competitive and front-of-mind, and establishing a foundation to optimize operations. The event will also include the ISG Innovation Lab, where participants can explore new digital offerings, and ISG use case presentations on “Optimizing the Technology Landscape for Scaled Initiatives,” “World-Class IT in the Context of Smart Manufacturing,” “New Business Models Around Industrial Data,” and “When Do We Say We Are Secure Enough?”

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