Digitalization is certainly one of the main topics that the process industry needs to address in depth.
The real challenge is to develop a company-specific IT strategy. Industry-wide processes may be similar, but each company has its own characteristics and special requirements. Hinzu kommt, The pace of change in technology and usage models is increasing rapidly. It is difficult for managers and employees to keep up to date: existing systems and IT infrastructure are not always designed to adequately cope with upcoming digitalization projects.
The Trovarit Long-term Study also provides more detailed insight: over half of all ERP systems are at least ten years old. At the same time, nearly two thirds of the survey population admitted that their business solution was no longer keeping up with current demands.
So, before you start investing, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Digitalization is not simply software that can be introduced in a manageable timeframe. It certainly affects IT—but also strategy, culture and the entire corporate organization. It is about target groups, markets and being sustainably different from the competition.
The dominant mentality, especially in the process industry, is often: “Never change a system that’s working.” All too often, a single component failing in the value chain can bring everything to a grinding halt. Understandably, risks that jeopardize deliveries are carefully weighed and, where there is doubt, not taken.
Such far-reaching changes can usually only be put in place with a compelling strategy and a clear and specific roadmap. However, many medium-sized companies do not have the personnel with the skillsets to combine industry knowledge with digitalization expertise and change management. 60% of all companies have not yet developed an overall strategy for their digitalization. However, one thing is certain: these companies in particular need to act fast, because they are most affected by the forces driving the digital transformation:
“We need to invest now: in digitalization and smart applications!”
Many of these topics are currently associated with cloud technology, which is still being met with hesitation. The general skepticism about cloud systems is abating. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is not mature enough yet. What’s more, practical examples of application are still in short supply. The topic of artificial intelligence or machine learning, for example, is still rated as having little or no importance by a whopping 55% of businesses. The results paint a similar picture for cloud technology, big data and IoT.
“We’re not there, yet.”
Manufacturing companies cannot afford to put off upgrading their IT systems. Customers and partners aren’t waiting around, and neither is the competition. There’s also no reason to keep cloud technologies off the table. Used in the right way, cloud services are an expedient way to add new functions to your system. There’s no need to put all your eggs in one basket. You can still run your company systems on-premises and simply add cloud functions on to them as needed. In any case, large, rigid and monolithic systems are on their way out. A modern business solution needs to be flexible, as well as open to new technologies, concepts and ideas.