What Digital Transformation means for Today’s Foundry & Steel Leaders
The industry is going through a digital transformation and so are many companies. The digitalisation stands to optimise many parts of the industry, but it will also require changes in many companies. In this blog, we'll go over some of the crucial points that are necessary for any senior executive to understand to successfully digitise their company and business strategy.
Digital forces are disrupting and reshaping nearly every industry, including the metal and ferroalloys sector. As many companies see the need to keep pace with innovations and new technologies positions such as Head of Digital Transformation or Director of Digitalisation & Innovation have become more common.
One thing is clear, digital transformation is essential for all businesses, from small foundries to big steel companies. This also means that it is crucial to understand how to actually make use of digitalisation. As well as how to best build a company's digital reputation.
First, we'll look at some of the most prominent buzzwords when it comes to digitalisation in order to avoid confusion. If you’re already on top of these terms you can jump down and read more about how to start your digital journey and how the digitization can impact your business strategy.
For now, let’s go over some of the most important buzzwords in a digitalized steel and metals industry.
What does digital transformation exactly mean?
Especially in the last 5 years terms such as digitalisation, digital transformation, and industry 4.0 have become prominent buzzwords. Even though they’re often used the meaning of them is often misunderstood. So, let’s have a look at some of them and their meaning:
Digitalisation refers to the USE of technologies to process data or information. That can for example be when you’re analyzing data in an Excel sheet or using tools to analyze Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It also part of digitalisation when you use a website to sell your service or product, communicate through emails or when you use social networks.
Digital transformation occurs when digital technologies CHANGE a process or a business model generating greater optimisation, efficiency, value, or innovation. A digital transformation can for example be when you design and create a product in a virtual simulator or make quality controls with the help of sensors.
It is also a digital transformation if you use digital platforms such as Metalshub. Metalshub is an online platform that allows buyers and sellers of metals and ferroalloys an end-to-end digital process. This digital process changes the more manual buying or selling process and makes it easier and more efficient and more compliant.
The Industry 4.0 concept was developed by the German Government in 2010. It refers to the INTEGRATION of multiple technologies throughout their industrial production and the value chain. Some synonyms are the 4th revolution or the digital or smart factory and the industrial Internet.
Smart warehouses are a good example. Here, they use several different technologies through the process such as their remote camera assistants that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots, QR codes, and radio frequency identification tags (RFID).
Getting started – specific steps for foundries and steel mills leaders
There is not a universal master plan for all companies on how to undergo a digital transformation. However, some overall steps are necessary for everyone and are a good place to start.
Taking the first step is much easier than you might think. And we’re here to help you on your way with this quick overview:
1. Strategy - Build your foundation for digital transformation
The technological resources in your company are bound to change and increase when you start the firm’s digital journey. With new technologies, it is essential that you rethink your current strategy and make room for a learning plan so your employees can learn not just how to use but also make the best use of the new resources.
It can be helpful if you ask yourself these questions:
-Does the existing organizational structure support a digital strategy?
-How does it need to change to foster constant learning and innovation?
-Is the current management team ready for these changing dynamics?
-Is there a clear understanding of the opportunities and risks the digitalisation brings?
-How can we get a company-wide commitment?
2. Technology - Acquire and integrate technologies
There are many different technologies out there. But when you start the digital transformation there’s no need to go out and buy many technologies at the same time. From both a human resource and financial perspective, it is better to increase the amount of technologies step by step. Giving you and your employees a chance to catch up and learn how to use your new resources.
At the same time, many of the new technologies offer demos and trial periods. Don’t be shy to try them out. It will reduce your costs in the long term, allow for feedback from your employees, and increase your team’s inclination to exhaustively use the technology. This will also make the technologies more of a medium to improve rather than make working more complicated.
3. Human Resources -Train your talent
Define a training plan for your current personnel and bear in mind when recruiting new staff you must consider new skills related to the use of digital technologies. Don’t forget that the digital transformation is not just about incorporating new technologies but is a radical change in processes, culture, and mindset.
It will ultimately highly depend on each employee to make it possible. Therefore, these topics must be introduced and discussed at all levels of the hierarchy, for them to be integrated into the company’s culture.
4. Digitalisation & Innovation – Acknowledge them as the “new normal”
When your company has adapted to the new routines and technologies you might think that you’re done and have gone through the digital transformation. That’s not quite the case. This is now, that it’s important to continue digitalising other areas in your business – such as the commercial, financial, communications, and customer relations departments.
You can even think about partnering up with another company that understands what it takes. This would be an opportunity to exchange ideas and grow together!
At the same time, it is relevant to invest in continuous Research + Development + Innovation (RDI) to keep up with the latest technology trends and at least keep yourself informed with the on-goings in the industry. As well as renewing technologies when it’s possible.
Even more important, it's to always bear in mind this: Digital transformation is based on technologies, but it is the PEOPLE who are the driving force behind it.
5. Do not forget, there is not an “end” or “done” in the digital journey
New platforms and technologies are constantly emerging. Leaders and their companies need to be prepared to always keep an eye on digital trends and revaluate talent strategies. With their decision-making power, leaders play a critical role in helping the foundries and steel mills succeed with their digital transformations.
Is the digital transformation worth it?
If we look at statistics on digital transformation across the world, digitalisation becomes even more relevant.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the degree of digitalisation of companies by the end of 2020 in America should already be 74%, followed by Europe, the Middle East, and Africa with 71% and finally Asia with 67%. With an average growth of 38% globally in just 5 years. Showing just how fast the digital transformation is going across all continents.
If we take a look at the companies in the metals sector, they are expected to invest up to 4 % per year of their annual industry revenues on their digital transformation.
At Metalshub, we know that for example, until now only 10% of foundries and steel mills worldwide, use digital platforms for the purchase of their raw materials, and the companies that use them, obtain benefits between 2-9% of savings in their annual costs.
In general, there is a consensus that digital transformation is not an option but an inevitable and necessary solution! The Coronavirus has shown the power of technology and digitalisation to prevent global economies from collapsing.
The scope and speed of the digital transformation vary between countries and industries. And although almost no businesses operate without digital technologies today, the technologies are often not used to their full potential.
Each company must have its own experience in its digital transformation and develop an individual plan according to its objectives, resources, and capabilities. Is it necessary? Yes! ...in fact, it is inevitable, so, let's get started!
Get in contact with us to start working on the digital transformation of the current purchasing process of your metals and ferroalloys.