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Assessing Digital Transformation readiness across Europe’s manufacturing industry

Assessing Digital Transformation readiness across Europe’s manufacturing industry

EIT Manufacturing publishes two new studies on digital transformation.

Digital transformation – for what purpose?  Most digital transformations are either focused on improving processes or product innovation or design, but there are differences in how large and small companies’ approach and focus their change efforts. EIT Manufacturing has recently collaborated with Mines Paris Tech PSL and the international team implementing the 2021 activity FactoRIS, around two situational analyses about the digital maturity across Europe’s manufacturing sector, as well as understanding what are the keys for success.

Both studies suggest that there are some differences in how big and small companies approach digitalisation, as well as experiencing difficulties about how to justify the benefits. Another common denominator between the two studies is the importance of training, and bringing along the workforce, and involving the shopfloor early on.

The study results were presented in a webinar at the end of June. The full Mines ParisTech PSL report, together with a presentation and recording are now available on AGORA, EIT Manufacturing’s new social media and open innovation platform.

Mines Paris Tech Study: Approach and Purpose depend on company size

Cedric DalmassoAccording to the Mines Paris Tech study, large companies, due to their size and more complex structure usually have a more conservative approach to digital transformation. For most large companies, the focus is mainly on improving traditional indicators related to efficiency, costs, with a structured stepwise approach to change. Hence, their purpose to embark on a digital transformation is usually related to rationalization and new production methods, but rarely about radical transformations.

“Even though most digital transformations either have a process or product focus or both, there are significant differences and learnings in how small and large companies approach the changesaid Cedric DALMASSO, Assistant Professor at Mines Paris Tech PSL and advising on the topic.

Smaller companies appear to have a more proactive and agile approach and use digital and to simplify their work processes and communication involving the whole organisation. The survey results also suggests that the smaller companies put more emphasis on the human aspect of the transformation.

Pierre Quesson“The areas where digital transformation still seems to be difficult or more challenging to implement relate to logistics, production and production related innovation. However, using digital tools for predictive maintenance seems to be easier to implement and we see quite much activity in this area”, said Pierre QUESSON, PhD student at Mines Paris Tech PSL.

Training and shopfloor involvement a key success factor

The consortium of FactoRIS activity, led by the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (STUBA), conducted a similar study focused on the European countries that are currently categorized as moderate innovators (RIS).

Both studies, highlight the importance of bringing along the shopfloor, with a focus on collegial decision-making for success.

Martin JuhasOur survey, which focused mainly on RIS countries that are a bit behind the rest of Europe in terms of development and innovation, shows that many people are quite unprepared to work in digitally demanding environments”, said Martin JUHAS, Assistant Professor at STUBA. “Even though most of responding enterprises, including small and medium-sized, have already started their digital transformation journeys, they often lack a holistic implementation strategy.

The important aspect of managing change and bringing along shop floor early on is confirmed by the Mines Paris Tech study.

While digital opens new doors, not all of them are positive. For employees, this new technology can instead open-up for new type of risks; anxiety about how to keep up with everything, fear of losing jobs, as well as increasing risk for isolation and solitude, just to name a few”, said Pierre QUESSON, PhD student Mines Paris Tech.

“Even without radically transforming the processes themselves, digital is prone to thoroughly affect the ways of working on the shopfloor, requiring strong involvement of the employees and collegial decision-making. The more involvement and consensus-based decision making, the more successful the transformations are, and the higher employee well-being”, said Cedric DALMASSO, Assistant Professor at Mines Paris Tech PSL adds.

For their study, a team from Mines Paris Tech PSL conducted large situational analysis of strategies and practices of innovation and digital transformation across Europe’s manufacturing industry, covering different facets of transformation, 17 countries and more than 83 respondents from both large and small companies.

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