The lack of a workforce with the digital skills to create and maintain an Industry 4.0 enterprise remains a significant roadblock for Digital Transformation (DX) in the UK. This is a fact that is widely recognised and owes partly to a lack of skills, particularly in the field of data science. However, if we in UK industry take an honest look at ourselves, a hesitancy on the part of industrial leaders to sponsor the change required to modernise operations and a lack of understanding about the tools and funding available to overcome the challenges is also holding the UK back. There is, for example, significant expertise that can be unlocked by partnering with the right vendors, both in the form of technology workarounds and services to plug gaps, and in terms of unleashing the potential of existing talent within the industrial workforce.
Within UK industry, it is clear to me that technology has reached a stage where its capabilities are only limited by our imagination - if we can think it, there’s every possibility it can be achieved. Moreover, it is also clear that UK industry, as a whole, is fully cognisant of the benefits and importance of digital transformation; but leaders are often less sure about how to implement it at a practical, human level. It can often seem a gargantuan task.
This understanding is consistent with our own Management Perspectives Symposium held at the US Embassy in London recently. This year our focus was to bring together UK thought leaders to discuss Digital Transformation (DX) in Industrial Enterprise. We consider it an important responsibility for companies like ours to be showing the benefits of DX, and helping industrial enterprises pick a course for their own modernisation.
Following speakers who laid out the very latest thinking, technology and approaches for DX, the event opened into a panel discussion taking questions and comments from the packed audience of UK industry c-suite delegates. What I found particularly interesting during the panel discussion was how quickly conversation moved from the technology capability to the human and cultural aspects of application. In fact, judging by the questions from the delegates, this was the most important focus for UK industrial leaders, regardless of the size of enterprise, when assessing their own Digital Transformation journeys.
As a manufacturer ourselves, Rockwell Automation has direct experience of implementing DX, as well as significant experience around the world helping our customers to navigate their own journeys - often as one of a number of partners on projects large and small. Our stated mission of expanding human possibility through technology is rooted in the lessons we have learned along our own journey, which has helped us to foster a culture that encourages and empowers all our employees to follow their own path of lifelong learning and digital/technical upskilling.
It is this approach that we want the UK industry to adopt when it comes to Digital Transformation, and we offer various training, services and expertise to support it amongst our customers. We believe that it not only creates a better workplace environment that can enable smooth DX but also helps address associated challenges such as our ageing workforce, digital competence and of course, the skills gap!
Digital Transformation should not be deployed from the top down, despite the fact that leadership and executive buy-in are fundamental to its success. I firmly believe a ‘hearts and minds’ approach is what’s needed here. Industrial leaders need to consider and enfranchise their workforce at the conception stage and welcome broad input all the way through to implementation. The results of this approach will speak for themselves over time.
Read how Wilkins Rogers Mills achieved unprecedented monitoring, increased uptime and enabled operators to make more accurate process adjustments.
Published January 6, 2020