Picture: 123RF/POP NUKOONRAT
Picture: 123RF/POP NUKOONRAT

Many industries have become more reliant on digital and remote services to keep their operations and supply chains running optimally. This affects their engineering requirements and predictive maintenance planning of mission-critical industrial assets. 

Charting this new path requires industry leaders to re-evaluate their business models and challenge the conventional definition of productivity without sacrificing production or profitability in the process. 

The recent Business Day Focus 4.0 LIVE digital dialogue, in partnership with Aveva and IS3, assessed the state of digital transformation in SA, the issues and challenges the industry and organisations face in their journey, and the technology enablers enterprises need to empower the modern workforce.

Digital technology made the Covid crisis tolerable, said moderator Bruce Whitfield. “There has been a fundamental shift in the way the world works, with technology acting as the great enabler.”

Stan DeVries, director of digital acceleration consulting at Aveva, said while the government is trying to provide an enabling environment from a policy framework perspective, there is still much work to be done in this area. 

For industry, the priorities are digital and remote support, maintaining product standards, process improvements, ensuring the safety of connected and isolated systems, and the creation of digital talent pools. He said organisational silos need to be broken down for digital transformation to be successful. The process should lead with work improvements that eliminate wasted work and time, rather than leading with technology improvements.

Digital transformation requires management participation, while teams need to develop new levels of trust. It also needs to be implemented correctly or it won’t be sustainable. Get it right and it becomes a competitive advantage. 

Dion Govender, Digital Industries CEO and IS3 MD, said SA is largely in a formative stage when it comes to digital transformation, and has yet to bridge the digital divide. The country’s policy framework has not created sufficient incentive or momentum for the industry to accelerate the adoption of digital.  

All the technology required for a digital transformation already exists — it just needs to be deployed by organisations, said Govender. SA has not typically been an early adopter of technology, which means that all the available technologies are now proven and can be safely and confidently deployed. 

Julien de Beer, head of portfolio management at Aveva’s engineering business unit, said companies needed to attract a new generation of skills — and then incentivise them to remain with the business. New, modern technologies and active management involvement are important in this process.

However, as Govender said, digital transformation is not possible without leadership transformation. There is a strong correlation between having capable talent and successfully deploying the technology. 

Watch the full discussion below:

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