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Leadership and Industrial Digitalisation

Five key areas executives at industrial manufacturers can focus on to put their business on the right digital path.

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For industrial manufacturers, it’s a time of change and possibility. From predictive maintenance to modular design, the latest technologies can help companies to be more efficient and more innovative. It’s reshaping how they operate. And it’s challenging the traditional business models.

But not everyone is at the same stage. Through my work, I’ve observed businesses that have embraced digitalisation. On the other hand, I’ve seen businesses that are stuck in a loop of proof of concepts (POCs) that never quite develop or join up. And then there are those that are still at a standing start when it comes to digitalising.

So, how do you create the right conditions for digital change? Well, change starts at the top. Executives need to create the right culture before they can take advantage of digitalisation. And they need to do so swiftly if they wish to stay competitive and ahead of their industry. Below, I will take a closer look at four areas executives should focus on to put their business on the right digital path.

Cultivate a Culture of High Performance

The link between high-performance culture and digitalisation might not be obvious at first glance. Among our customers, I can see those who just simply think ahead, and set themselves new standards of performance that are materially higher than the status quo. Indeed, if you want to drive digitalisation in your company, you need to understand its business impact, set the bar higher and work your way “backwards” to the options that are available to you. High performance comes with investment and disruptions. Digitalisation is one of them, and harnessing it means understanding its impact on performance, to start with.

Think Strategically

The market does not wait. Change takes a sense of urgency to galvanise the business. Too many businesses stick to the status quo and hope that their business will survive and carry on amid change. But hoping for the best is not really a strategy. A strategy isn’t solely about defining what your business should focus on, but also what it will not do, and what it will stop doing. You need to make choices because resources are limited – and so are the chances you get to do something right. It’s therefore key to coach your people to think strategically first and then plan how to execute the strategy as smoothly as possible. To determine the journey ahead, you need to:

  • Take an outside-in and consultative view of your business.
  • Understand how your company benchmarks against the very best.
  • Decide which financial indicators you should address first.

This journey is the sum of the steps you shall take. Which one comes first and why, which one comes second and why, and so on, will be up to you. Whatever you choose, the financial soundness of each step should form the backbone of your strategy.

Choose Your Partners

You need to build an ecosystem that can blend industrial and digital know-how. No one organisation has the answer to the whole of digitalisation. Rather, it’s about teamwork and partnerships. For vendors and solution partners alike, your network will be a critical part for your future business. You need to look for a business model that supports a joint approach and makes it sustainable. Then, turn to partners that can either fill technology and/or competency gaps you may have in-house. These partners might also bring the price point of your chosen digitalisation actions and implementation to a more affordable level.

Get the Most out of Your Human Capital

The conversation about digital transformation is often dominated by talk of technology. But it’s crucial not to lose sight of what really matters. People are your most important asset. And to draw the best from your people, you need to encourage them to act with agility, question the status quo, and thrive with ideas. To achieve this, it pays to inject a healthy dose of emotional intelligence at the leadership level. 

A major paradigm of change is occurring in the thought process between the non-digital vs. the digitalised worlds. Software-based and data-science productivity solutions can seem infinite, given the enormous versatility of digital solutions. In conventional automation, software is essentially used as a mere tool to program hardware controllers and actuators (the brains of a process!). Automation – the way we know it – is a proven, 100+ year-old science, in which powerful algorithms combined with a deep knowledge of the physical process are the key to performance. On the other hand, it also offers a lot less space for creativity than in the virtual world.

While digital solutions can be limitless, doubled down with analytics and augmented with virtual reality… so must be the minds of your best and brightest employees.

At Rockwell Automation, we specialise in helping businesses manage their data, digital skills, and network security. Alongside technical know-how, we bring expertise in making digital change happen. For more insights on industrial leadership, visit our Management Perspectives Hub.


Pierre Teszner
Pierre Teszner
Regional Sales Director, Central and Eastern Europe, Rockwell Automation
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