7 keys to digitize manufacturing

Total read time 10 min

Manufacturers are accelerating digitalization to achieve new levels of efficiency and quality, while transforming to new services-based business models. Yet many companies struggle to scale beyond pilot projects. IBM has identified seven keys to successful and scalable business transformation. Learn how AI and hybrid cloud can help you use these keys to unlock your journey.


You have a wealth of existing information.

How will you tap into it?

1. Leverage the incumbent advantage in data

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"You have a wealth of existing information."

Over decades of operations, manufacturers have generated a treasure trove of production data on throughput, product quality, equipment operations, productivity and worker safety. Unleash the hidden advantage of incumbency by tapping into this data and knowledge and applying AI for insights.

Turkish metals industry powerhouse Isdemir Steel applies AI and IoT to modernize steel production. End to end visibility of operational equipment data predicts maintenance requirements, so they can be addressed with minimum disruption. Additional AI applications optimize parts inventory, enhance worker safety and ensure regulatory compliance.


Companies that create new business platforms will lead the 4th industrial revolution.

What will you lead?

2. Create platforms to unleash Digital Darwinism

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"Companies that create new business platforms will lead the 4th industrial revolution."

Manufacturing platforms are breaking down traditional barriers and reducing inefficiencies, addressing interoperability across a legacy of proprietary manufacturing systems, equipment controllers, IoT sensors and devices. Connect data from providers across the manufacturing ecosystem to fuel your transformation.

Leading manufacturing technology provider Siemens has adopted the IBM and Red Hat® open hybrid cloud platform for its MindSphere IoT solutions, bringing together disparate data and systems with AI and advanced analytics to advance your manufacturing operations.


Embrace agility to accelerate innovation.

Which team will be first to innovate production operations?

3. Get agile, change fast and build things

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"Embrace agility to accelerate innovation."

End customer demand has become hyper-personalized, which means greater product variations, smaller lot sizes and more frequent changeovers for manufacturers. Design, production, sales and support must be able to rapidly adapt, embracing change. Apply new techniques like design thinking and agile to systematically progress from ideas to prototypes to scaled implementations.

L’Oreal is applying design thinking techniques to become a more agile manufacturer. A team of factory engineers and operators brainstorm with IBM to define solutions to long-standing pain points. Thirty mobile applications were co-created in short order. Now, some factories can switch production lines to 20 different formats in less than 5 minutes.


Redefine how you compete.

Which new market will you enter?

4. Architect your business for change

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"Redefine how you compete."

Businesses are redefining how they compete. Transform physical products into digital services for greater customer value. Partner across the ecosystem to expand your market and grow revenue. Enter adjacent markets to create new revenue streams. Manage large data set workloads relying on edge, IoT and 5G technology, underpinned by open standards and a hybrid multi-cloud platform.

Mining equipment provider Sandvik transformed their business modelfrom physical products to digital services. An initial focus on predictive maintenance of heavy equipment grew into a digital view of their customers’ mining operations. Now, the Sandvik Optimine® solution uses Watson IoT®to provide mining operators with insights to ensure worker safety and improve productivity by up to 25-30%.


Smart workflows continuously learn.

Which of your workflows needs 10X improvement?

5. Redesign company workflows around AI

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"Smart workflows continuously learn."

Implement new competitive strategies by rethinking how work is conducted. Start with the flow from plan-to-manufacturing, then consider implications on customer orders, engineering, supply chain, lifecycle management and aftermarket. Embed data insights and AI learnings into process workflows so improvements can be realized in real time, all the time.

Energy giant Shell has built a Shell marketplace, Oren, that extends its oil exploration expertise into mining operations. Miners now benefit from deep data insights that focus on productivity, safety and sustainability of mine operations. Intelligent workflows and automation predict and prevent machine failure, avoid safety hazards and increase operational yields.


Empower your team with new ways to work.

Which new skills are needed most?

6. Reinvent your workforce to ignite talent

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"Empower your team with new ways to work."

Implementing new strategies, techniques and workflows invariably requires new ways of working. Co-creation using design thinking and agile development is essential to embed technology and assist in talent transition. Agile, multidisciplinary teams bring together design experts and digital technologists with superusers. Consider new skill requirements and rethink job roles, leveraging your workforce to use their inherent knowledge rather than be consumed by repetitive tasks.

Woodside, Australia’s largest independent energy company, is preparing the next generation workforce for innovation. Woodside uses the IBM Garage™ methodology to redesign human resources processes, creating a culture of agile operations and continuous skills building. Now, Watson AI places tribal knowledge and skills in the hands of new employees, to shorten their learning curve.


Business relationships are built on trust.

How will you foster it?

7. Win with trust and security

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"Business relationships are built on trust."

Business relationships are built on trust. Customers, trading partners and stakeholders want to be assured that manufacturing operations are secured against cyberthreats. Socially conscious buyers seek commitments to sustainability and responsible labor practices. Build integrity into your operations end to end

ABB automation and robotics provider ABB extends cybersecurity to OT equipment, helping to improve security for industrial operators. ABB’s OT Security Event Monitoring Service combines ABB’s process control system domain expertise with the IBM security event monitoring portfolio.

Innovate your business to continuously adapt.

Where will you begin?

Bringing it all together

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"The next-generation business model."

Successful scalable transformations take a holistic approach, balancing both business and technology perspectives. IBM can bring this multifaceted approach to your business transformation.

Start today with a simple self-evaluation of the 7 Keys. Compare your business transformation maturity to benchmark data from over 1000 industrial companies. Are you ahead or behind the pack?

Connect with an IBM expert to determine what’s next in your digital transformation journey.