The digital maturity, assessed by the Industry 4.0 Observatory through the Dreamy methodology, which took into consideration the state of the Industry 4.0 projects, highlights many delays and inadequacies of SMEs. However, the discussion with suppliers and actors active in various capacities in the projects identifies some paths and new priorities that technologies can enable, exploiting, in particular, the on-demand logic, offering companies greater competitiveness on the market, reduced risks, and lower financing costs.
At what point is the digital transformation of companies approaching Industry 4.0? Is there a single virtuous path, and what obstacles stand in the way of companies’ digital maturity? 88% of which are SMEs, belonging to 15 different sectors, with the prevalence of companies in discrete manufacturing and, to a large extent, a production strategy to order. To do this, the Dreamy methodology (Digital Readiness Assessment Maturity model) was used, developed by the Observatory to measure the maturity of a company: 4 are the dimensions of analysis (Organization, technology, control and process) in 6 areas (Product and process engineering, Production, Quality, Maintenance, Logistics, Supply Chain).
One of the first pieces of evidence is a decidedly lower digital maturity of SMEs in every dimension and process analyzed than large companies. In SMEs, control, understood as the ability to make decisions, is the weakest dimension of digital maturity, as is the ability to use digital technologies to execute and manage processes. At the same time, maintenance is the least developed process. “The result is a reduced ability to make quick decisions based on data and to make good use of information that comes from the process”.
Quality is the most mature area, probably as a response to a search for competitiveness that still fails to consider the evolution of the market and the need for a transformation of production models to accommodate new business models. Digital technologies should be exploited to go beyond the efficiency of current processes, as the participants in the round table.
Digital Maturity: The Flexibility Enabled By Technology
“Industry 4.0 involves the merger of the IT and OT world; networked mechatronic systems, themselves data sources, represent one of the first forms of convergence between mechanics, electronics and information technology. SMEs consider these systems to be increasingly important to solve the shift between business models and production models “. If the goal was to produce the most significant number of pieces in the past, today, it becomes to maximize the variety. Flexibility thus becomes the primary objective that can also be satisfied thanks to systems that use IoT systems and cloud solutions.
Openness And Commitment For A Successful Business
The Observatory also tried to understand what characteristics distinguish successful companies by identifying the greater open-mindedness of second-generation entrepreneurs, the decisive role for the transformation of the supply chain, the desire to involve external partners and advisors, including the university, the willingness to hire managers who come from other sectors and to include professionals from the electronics and IT areas.
These factors are also confirmed by research on about 300 companies, mainly SMEs, conducted by the consulting firm, which indicates the characteristics always present in the champions:
- They have solved the computerization of their processes;
- They are companies open to research and academia, with a transversal open innovation approach;
- They have an HR culture that focuses on people and provides them with the necessary training, valid for digital transformation;
- For years they have been engaged in the transformation of processes.
“The real issue is, on the one hand, having the people involved and on the other, robust processes and capacity for transformation, putting people at the center”. To ensure speed and flexibility by procuring the skills that are lacking. “Our sample, although it may not be representative, has many of the characteristics identified. The difficulty in opening up to innovation is compounded by the need to convince the various company levels to open up: the first line, although already ready. “Innovation that leads to greater flexibility and efficiency, for us translates into less risk – adds the manager – Consequently the Group can grant capital at lower costs for the company”.
Which Path To Manage The Risk Of Innovation
In any case, innovation involves a risk that a bank cannot overlook but can help keep it under control. “The starting point is an adequate solidity of the SME that undertakes this path- In successful cases, we have verified that innovation is born in a kind of bubble that is temporarily kept out of the company”. In addition to containing the risk deriving from the introduction of innovation, this choice allows benefiting from a series of incentives that favor growth.
“Technologies must be given to the right people, and investments in infrastructure must be minimized”, bringing a supplier’s point of view on risk. In his opinion, the objective is achievable given that most of the innovative technologies are in the cloud. In this way, SMEs could use on-demand technologies that were only available to large companies until a few years ago, concentrating investments instead of people. However, there is still much more resistance from smaller companies than larger companies already moving towards the cloud.
However, it is no longer possible to remain at the window: “Some of our customers still want to wait to see what will happen or are confused by incentives or technological trends and believe that investing in machinery can solve their problems”, warning that projects risk failing in the absence of adequate planning, the definition of the path, knowledge and quantification of risks. SMEs should remember that the time variable is not independent and that the market does not wait for full digital maturity to be reached.