Industry 4.0/Published: August 11, 2021

Digital Transformation: Advantages of Starting with Small Projects

Eric Stoop Web
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Eric Stoop
Read time: 4 mins
Digital Transformation

A 2021 Deloitte and Fortune survey of CEOs showed that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for a full 85% of companies.  

At the same time, laying out massive capital for Industry 4.0 technologies means trading risk for uncertain rewards. Especially if you’re still using paper or spreadsheets to manage operations, getting real value from advanced tools like machine learning and edge computing can be a tall order.   

So how can companies take advantage of the benefits of digital transformation while limiting their risk overall? 

The answer for many is starting small.  

Today we look at why this approach makes sense, considerations for your first project and how cloud-based software can deliver a comparatively large impact for your investment.  

Learn how a Fortune 500 manufacturer used mobile audit software to reduce internal defects 73% in our free Automotive Case Study

Why It Makes Sense to Start Small

There’s no question that digital transformation is driving real results for manufacturers who have taken the plunge. A recent survey from SMB Group, for instance, showed that businesses that had launched digital transformation initiatives were three times as likely to have seen an increase in revenue compared with those who hadn’t.  

At the same time, deciding what will work best is one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation, a problem holding a full 1 in 3 companies back among those surveyed. It’s easy to see why—building support internally for a project can take years, especially when it involves millions in capital expenditures.  

Rather than getting bogged down in the complexity of Industry 4.0, manufacturers should remember the old saying, “You can’t boil the ocean.” Starting small provides advantages that include: 

  • Limiting financial outlay and IT footprint, especially where cloud-based software is used 
  • Gaining experience that can help reduce barriers in future projects  
  • Providing proof-of-concept for expanding the current initiative 
  • Collecting data that can be used in additional digital projects 
  • Helping clarify and build consensus around priorities 
  • Generating results to energize the team and provide forward momentum 

How to Select Your First Digital Transformation Project

When choosing where to start, it’s worth considering projects likely to drive rapid value. Examples include initiatives that provide a significant benefit for customers, reduce operational costs or increase bottom-line revenue. This approach helps gain buy-in from leadership and employees both initially as well as for future projects. 

The landscape of Industry 4.0 technologies is vast, ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality (AR), robotics, internet of things (IoT) and more. However, a recent McKinsey survey showed that the most common tools used among companies with successful digital transformations were traditional web technologies, cloud-based services and mobile internet technologies.  

The survey also noted two that more than any other factors, organizations are two to three times as likely to report success when the following elements are in place: 

  1. Management creates a clear story on the change that transformation can deliver
  2. Digital tools enable better information-sharing across the company
  3. Employees and leadership are able to use digital tools on a self-serve basis 

Mobile Audit Software: Building Momentum with Quick Wins

Implementing mobile audit software is a prime example of how small digital transformation projects can drive rapid value and build momentum for continuous improvement on a larger scale.  

For many companies that implement EASE, it’s the first digital transformation project undertaken in their organization. Beginning their digital transformation efforts with EASE enables these companies to de-risk the process by participating in our free pilot program, featuring a white-glove implementation and training program overseen by our Customer Success team. This allows them to immediately experience the benefits of digital plant floor audits by: 

  • Getting cloud-based audit tools running in days, rather than weeks or months  
  • Giving teams user-friendly mobile tools to verify process compliance on a smartphone or tablet  
  • Sharing plant floor data in real time with employees and management 
  • Reducing quality escapes, production defects and scrap costs  

These early wins then create a clear case for manufacturers to use the platform in other areas of the plant or additional plants in the organization. One company even innovated an approach to eliminating systemic quality issues using dynamic question banks to quickly assess all machines when they find a problem at one station. 

For manufacturers still using paper and spreadsheets, automating specific processes like plant floor audits with cloud-based software represents an accessible starting point to digital transformation. By starting small, manufacturers can gain critical experience and deliver value quickly, providing momentum—and data—for expanding into other digital technologies in the future.  

Read more about how one company used EASE to develop an innovative approach to finding and eliminating systemic quality issues here
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