The appeal & dangers of ad-hoc evolution

Feb. 6, 2018
You can start small, but you should start smart.

Start small.

That’s sound advice for those eager to launch their digital transformation but intimidated by the scope of massive projects they read about on these pages. Then again, it’s a sound approach to transform the enterprise strategically, with eyes set on comprehensive successes down the road. 

So how do you suggest a business should evolve, John F. Wozniak? The manager with the CC-Link Partner Association was kind enough to share his thoughts. Take a look…

Smart Industry: Do you find that manufacturers strategically adopt elements of digital

CC-Link Partner Association's John Wozniak

transformation/evolution or are most approaches ad hoc?

John: Currently most of the applications are ad hoc—a catch-up approach using the capabilities and capital equipment that they currently have. However, those facilities that are restarting/upgrading with new equipment/overhauls are starting to understand the advantages and are designing scalable systems to start small and work their way up. They can then add capabilities and include the necessary equipment in their budgets and designs when appropriate.

Smart Industry: Why do some approach this complicated effort in an ad-hoc manner?

John: The same reasons stated above—time and expense. Perhaps at the time they implemented the original equipment the concept of digital transformation/evolution was not yet fully realized, practical or affordable. Sometimes with people not understanding the benefits and being afraid of change, their ultimate goal is to sabotage the project and go back to the way they did it before because We don’t need that. With this sabotage ad-hoc implementation method, the process is difficult and expensive—therefore Not worth it.

The issues with an ad-hoc approach can be simple or complex; some may work just fine and others could be doomed from the beginning. One major issue with an ad-hoc approach is that the pieces may not function with one another; you might get some functionality but the complete picture or a fully functional system is out of reach. The biggest issue would be if the organization got the ad-hoc system to work, although unknowingly not fully functional—not getting to the full operational potential of the system. The company might not realize that there could be so much more, and the savings and justification would not be a great as they could be. This might cause the company to abandon the concept entirely without ever meeting its full potential. This could prevent the company from trying this again—management might surmise that It didn’t meet its potential in the past, it will not now.

Another issue with ad-hoc setups is expense. Not just the capital expense, but the expense in getting the project to provide any type of information.

Do you see a pattern here? It’s not necessarily the cost of the equipment or the time or the effort. Poorly designed implementations can kill future efforts.

Smart Industry: How does one digitally transform an enterprise in a strategic manner? Can you still start small and test the waters?

John: Of course. Digital transformation can start on a small scale, perhaps with sensors and low-level implementation. This doesn’t mean the project won’t be able to expand. But it must be built to be scalable as the facility sees gains and productivity increases. If a strategic plan is followed it eliminates a hodgepodge system that becomes unmanageable.

Smart Industry: What are the benefits of a thoughtful, comprehensive approach?

John: The company knows what to expect—and perhaps more importantly…when to expect results.

Know a woman leading an enterprise’s digital transformation? Nominate her for a Women in Manufacturing award here.