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Life Science Innovation Q2 2023

Digital transformation: where to start and how to sustain it

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Adrian Hovenden

Industrial Solutions Architect, Irish Manufacturing Research

Knowing where to invest is key to unlocking the opportunities that digital transformation brings — but this is not always clear.

Future-proofing operations in organisations are constantly being challenged with the need to digitally transform, and the fear of being left behind is at the forefront of many conversations. However, knowing where to start or scale is not always clear. Organisations are slow in adopting digital transformation technology, primarily, for risk of making the wrong decision.

Know where to invest for a digital transformation

Industry 4.0 and 5.0 continue to be the catch-all terms for emerging technologies, but it remains a minefield of unanswered questions. To guide companies, there are many assessment processes available to measure current digital maturity and identify focus areas. At best, many focus solely on technology and quite often will be the interpretation of one person. 

However, the World Economic Forum-endorsed Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) assesses current maturity across process, technology and organisation but also factors in manufacturing costs and client-selected business objectives. This framework identifies key focus areas where impact will be maximised and provides guidance on where to start and scale their transformation plans with confidence.

Senior leaders should start educating themselves by learning from others.

Digital transformation is a strategy — not a project

Treating digital transformation as a project will ultimately have a low impact or, worse, transformation failure. It’s a strategy requiring executive sponsorship, knowledge and long-term investment. Equally, it should not be dependent on one individual or business unit. It requires input across all departments, including technical and non-technical teams — everyone has a voice on digitalisation, and they must be heard. 

Senior leaders should start educating themselves by learning from others and spend time to recognise the impacts and how success has been achieved elsewhere. Understanding the benefits will help leaders influence transformation teams; it needs to be a top-down strategy. Digital transformation of manufacturing operations never stops; you will not come to a point and say, “I’ve done it.” You are constantly evolving and building to improve.

Empower and upskill your workforce

During the past 18 months, Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) has conducted 40 SIRI assessments with Irish manufacturing organisations; and regardless of industry sector, it’s clear that having a skilled and talented workforce is key to unlocking digital transformation.

It is not just having technical capability in the organisation; future-proofing requires that all staff are comfortable using digital technology. IMR provides SIRI assessments that assist companies start, scale and — most importantly — sustain their digital transformation.

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