Transitioning to a digital operating system can be challenging – find out how to develop a three-stage road map to digital excellence.

Digital operating systems, or DOS, represent the means for manufacturers to transform lean supply chains into interconnected, agile and collaborative end-to-end value networks. But change comes with challenges, and the implementation of DOS requires a considered approach. Orchestrating the path to digital maturity in three stages – Assess, Plan, and Execute and Sustain – will significantly enhance the prospects of enduring success.

A culture of integrated, continuous performance improvement relies on the high performance and problem-solving aptitude of its people.
A culture of integrated, continuous performance improvement relies on the high performance and problem-solving aptitude of its people.

Assessing the point of departure

Understanding the organization’s current level of capability and digital status is key. A deep-dive maturity assessment process will kickstart impetus behind a vision of world-class manufacturing. By highlighting strengths and revealing weaknesses, the analysis will identify the appropriate actions and priorities towards operations and value network alignment. In orienting the transformation program, the assessment is the foundation for progress.

In particular, the assessment should focus on the status of four pillars of future manufacturing excellence: Digital proficiency, integrative improvement, operations alignment, and value chain alignment.

Whilst existing digital competencies may be inadequate to support a state of maturity, clarifying the status assists in prioritizing technology investments, areas for upskilling, and fine-tuning the digital strategy. The check also serves to prime systems for the transition, buffering against pitfalls which may hamper operations during switchovers and new technology installations.

By probing holistically, the assessment should also reveal misalignments between operations and upstream processes such as planning and procurement, the degree of integration with downstream logistics functions, including warehousing, and the effectiveness of previous initiatives to integrate information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT). These are crucial tenets of mapping the path to digital progression – as is an understanding of how continuous improvement (CI) programs are tracking: Are these being sustained, are they being synchronized throughout the enterprise, and how will they be managed during the DOS transformation?

Just as important is a review of the efficacy of the wider value chain. The nuances of DOS implementation must be guided by the vision of an agile, fully aligned, demand-driven value network (DDVN) in which the manufacturing hub is linked in real-time with suppliers, distributors, and customers. How far from this goal is the organization currently? A reality check will reveal where the biggest gaps may be between existing performance and the optimal measure – and hence, where the digital transformation groundwork needs to be prioritized in relation to the overall value network.

Plan for success

Knowing, from the assessment exercise, the shape of the enterprise’s capabilities, its value chain strengths and weaknesses, and how far the value chain is from the vision of an optimal, digitized DDVN, allows for detailed planning appropriate to the company’s unique characteristics and specific status quo.

The road map represents the orchestration of the DOS transformation. It should be as  tight and comprehensive as possible. Key elements include phasing of implementation actions; synchronization across all impacted units, departments and divisions – or, if applicable, the sequencing of a deliberately staggered approach; milestone objectives and timelines; resource allocation; and relevant workforce training requirements, notably digital upskilling.

Technology must be at the heart of a planned progression to digital maturity, and warrants short- and medium-term schemes as well as a long-term outline. Within the vision of a digital-first enterprise, consider a detailed response to questions involving the prioritization of data and analytics tools, the potential of next-generation robotics in manufacturing, and the role of artificial intelligence across the value chain. Seek the appropriate balance between realistic return-on-investment (ROI) requirements and the proven competitive advantages of early technology adoption.

Flexibility is also vital. “Plans are nothing; planning is everything,” said former US President Dwight D Eisenhower. The paradox of rigorous planning is that it forges a state of readiness even when plans go awry.

Culture as catalyst

In the Execute and Sustain phase, the guiding principle is that  solidifying change, and achieving lasting success, requires the appropriate organizational culture. New technologies, new ways of working, ongoing developments and further disruptions: These will be near ceaseless, and organizations that will thrive in the manufacturing paradigm of the future will be those which are not only digitally enabled, but also culturally curious and empowered, agile and problem-solving by nature.

But if the best laid plans can go awry, so too are superb strategies subject to the constraints of culture. Leaders should mitigate against this by leading the change. A culture of integrated, continuous performance improvement relies on the high performance and problem-solving aptitude of its people, and people are inspired by witnessing leadership in action. By standardizing leadership’s behaviors and activities, leader standard work (LSW) practices will assist in orchestrating and embedding the digital transformation, and sustain a mindset of high-performance habits and integrative improvement throughout the organization.

The best practices involve method, rigor and systemization. This approach towards digital maturity – encompassed within the three-stage mapping process above – will significantly improve the likelihood of successful DOS transformation outcomes.

Download the white paper Digital operating systems: The organisational need for guidance to find out more transitioning to DOS with a stage-based, fully customized solution.

CCi is a privately held global company that enables organizations to deliver sustainable results across the supply chain through TRACC, a digital integrative improvement solution.