Industry voices—Higgins: Seven habits of top IIoT leaders

With the IIoT market expected to grow from $77.3 billion in 2020 to $110.6 billion by 2025, 73% of manufacturers plan to increase their investment in smart factory technology over the next year. As the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited digital transformation projects across industries, manufacturers are set to experience five years of innovation in the next 18 months.

 The need for digital tools to automate processes, obtain real-time information and create agile supply chains to comply with new restrictions is critical for success in today’s climate. This two-part series will explore seven habits of transformational leaders and their secrets to digital success.

Habit #1: Start at the top, lead from the front

To gain support from the top for digital transformation initiatives, plant champions and architects must take a hands-on role. Leading with a growth mindset and implementing plant champions who work to drive solutions, standards and investments, helps initiatives accelerate quickly and then scale across an organization. Connecting the factory floor and technology teams, these champions drive innovation and excitement with a “show before we build” approach.

Stanley Black & Decker, the world’s largest toolmaker, is undergoing a three-year digital transformation project across its 122 factories and 15 distribution centers around the world to create a connected enterprise, automate their entire supply chain and up-skill/re-skill 61,000 employees. This transformation is being driven at the board of directors level.

Although supported by company leadership, Stanley Black & Decker’s digital transformation program experienced the expected skepticism that often comes with large-scale corporate programs. According to Sudhi Bangalore, global vice president of Industry 4.0 at Stanley Black & Decker, “We encourage risk-taking and promote innovation by leading from the front and being hands-on. We are overcoming skepticism with the smart engagement of plant champions who help be the bridge between technology and people impact. It also serves to help drive innovation from the ground-up at the factory level with a ‘show before we build’ approach that people love.”

 Habit #2: Be Humble, Question Everything

Having an open mind is critical for any digital transformation initiative to be successful. Questioning the technology, processes, customer relationships, product offerings and long-standing biases and engrained ways of thinking ensures every angle is considered and factored into the digital initiative. Being humble and honest about the current state of the operation, will also help ensure necessary changes are made to improve processes.

Mike Carroll, senior vice president of innovation for Georgia-Pacific (GP), described the company’s digital transformation initiative as, “radically changing the way the organization thought.” He mentioned, “It wasn’t just about buying software or being ‘digital’ or automating processes or installing robotics. The hardest concept to champion was the fact that this would be a total transformation including each capability—big and small—throughout the company. It introduced a new lexicon that not only changed the way we spoke, but also how we thought and, therefore, the way we acted.”

Habit #3: Eliminate silos, from systems and the org chart

Industrial facilities are made up of heterogeneous systems that generate voluminous data at high speeds—resulting in data silos. To generate the most valuable insights from digital transformation initiatives, connecting the dots across these silos with relevant OT data context is critical. However, many organizations are unable to do so today, leading to a loss of business performance and increased time/money-spend on manual data preparation. IT/OT convergence results in having the right data, with the right person at the right time to make timelier, better-informed decisions. Eli Lilly and Company (an American pharmaceutical company) unified IT and OT teams to overcome challenges caused by conflicts, gaps and overlaps between OT and IT domains.

Eli Lilly and Company realized that who an individual reports to was not nearly as important as how they behave, so the company focused its efforts on better defining areas of responsibility and establishing shared governance of important activities. For example, IT/OT teams collaborated to develop an understanding of industrial cybersecurity, a plan to mitigate immediate risks, an ongoing strategy to ensure best-available protection and a joint effort to address regulatory requirements. Both IT/OT teams work toward a shared purpose of producing life-saving medicines with safety first and quality always

According to Wilfred Mascarenhas, data and analytics advisor for Manufacturing and Quality - Information and Digital Solutions (IDS), “The cross-functional alignment is driven by a group of people who have developed trusted relationships and a desire to work together.”

Part two will explore four additional habits of transformational leaders, and how each mindset contributed to their digital transformation project’s success.

Keith Higgins is Vice President of Digital Transformation at Rockwell Automation. He previously served as Vice President at FogHorn and CMO at RiskVision until its acquisition in 2017. Higgins was also an executive at Symphony Teleca Corporation, an IoT and connected services company, where he played an integral role in the doubling the company’s revenue leading to a nearly $1 billion acquisition by Harman.