Written by John Heller

What I Learned About Digital Transformation in November

Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several virtual events relating to digital transformation in manufacturing. Among them were PI DX, the Purdue Digital Enterprise Center Meeting, and the CIMdata PLM Road Map & PDT Event. I’ve attended most of these events several years running, and two things stand out to me:

First, all these events are shifting towards putting enterprise digital transformation at the forefront. Everything used to be solely focused on PLM, but now these organizations are highlighting the importance of a connected, digital thread throughout all enterprise functions and business systems to move forward in today’s manufacturing environment. Relying solely on PLM systems has proven to be unsuccessful.

Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. This has become clear in almost every avenue over the last six months. Of course, the pandemic has caused sizable challenges for all organizations. But, it has also shown us that now is the time to act on digital transformation roadmaps in order to be viable. These themes were present in every event I attended, and impacted my three primary takeaways about digital transformation.

PLM Isn’t Enough to Survive (Says PI DX)

My favorite session from the three-day PI DX conference was a roundtable on the last day featuring SAP, ARAS, PTC, Siemens, Propel, and Physna. One theme bubbled to the top through the discussion: companies can’t rely only on PLM as a single mechanism to connect your extended enterprise. That’s because there are so many sources of data that are critical in Industry 4.0, such as IoT sensor data, CRM, ERP, and MES, to name a few. To truly connect the enterprise, companies need a way to connect all their data sources into a digital thread that utilizes the digital twin throughout their enterprise to make intelligent business decisions.

Prioritize the Customer Experience, Not Features (Says CIMdata)

At the end of the first day of the CIMdata event, BAE Systems presented on digital innovation, digital twins, and the digital thread to drive innovation, efficiency, and quality. BAE is one of the few companies to find software that enhances the user experience by building applications, rather than finding software that focuses on features. They encouraged attendees to look for solutions that help an individual or team have a great experience so there’s a definable outcome that positively impacts the business. This is key to digital transformation. If you want to truly capitalize on your company’s data, you first have to understand what decisions you need to make from that information and how you want to experience the data. Without that foundation in place, it’s too easy to become overwhelmed with the data.

On the software side, BAE Systems encouraged companies to build applications with open API’s to connect with other systems in your business. The key here is to start with a small prototype and deliver quick wins with minimal coding and the infrastructure already in place. One example of “starting small” is to focus on improving line defects for a product line, then scale up. This idea was repeated throughout the remainder of the conference, as several companies discussed accelerating time to value and finding the right balance between innovation and governance.

Tame the Monster of 3D Data (Says Purdue)

Purdue University’s Digital Enterprise Center meetings are always interactive and engaging, and this year was no different despite being over Zoom. The event walked through a natural progression of how companies can get value out of their digital data, starting with the challenges and opportunities, working through the architecture of a digital thread, and concluding with how to make smart analysis and decisions. Once a company has an established framework that pulls the right data, they can synthesize the data into groups and make decisions.

One presentation from Microsoft, in particular, compared the monstrous size of 3D data to thick “viscosity.” The size of 3D data makes it difficult to aggregate and make decisions. The digital twin is the ideal way to understand data. However, 3D data continues to be a challenge to make available to downstream teams, and the presenter didn’t have a good way to address this challenge. The challenge of taming 3D data into something more fluid and accessible is universal. But the key is finding the right software tools that focus on the user experience, in this case, enabling users to interact with the 3D visuals.

Coming out of these events, it’s critical that companies begin to expand the digital twin. They must bring various data sources into context, break through the "viscosity" barriers in getting 3D visuals to downstream users, and prioritize the customer experience through an agile mindset. Vertex tackles each of these challenges head-on. We consider goals and outcomes first—rather than technology features—to solve true business problems. And because we connect all your data sources into a single visual, we bring your enterprise together to make critical decisions lightning-fast. We help customers create purpose-built, 3D digital twin applications quickly in a scalable way to any user. To learn more about how Vertex is changing the game in digital transformation, contact us.

About John Heller

John has extensive experience in mechanical engineering, supplier collaboration, cross-functional relationship-building, and procurement activities. Through this experience, he learned optimal ways to bridge the gap between engineering, procurement, and the supply chain. He has championed new product roadmaps, spearheaded procurement strategies, and worked with customers to understand truly valuable opportunities for product improvement. As Product Marketer for Vertex Software, John leverages his extensive background in engineering and product lifecycle to best understand and communicate pain points and opportunities in manufacturing organizations.