Man with a tattoo pointing at a tablet in a factory

2020 has shown manufacturers the true value of digital transformation

Leentje Chavatte

Leentje Chavatte

Microsoft, Data & AI and Digital Transformation

Read Time, 3 min.

At the start of 2020, there were all manner of manufacturing topics to be discussed. And then suddenly, there was only one.

It would be difficult to overstate the impact of Covid-19’s disruption on manufacturers. Almost across the board, this industry has seen supply chains breaking, cash ceasing to flow and production lines grinding to a halt.

So it’s unsurprising that the coronavirus outbreak has taken up the whole bandwidth of industry thought, writing and discussion for the last few months.

What’s especially interesting though, is the fact there are marked parallels between the most critical topics both pre-crisis and today. Much of the technology being examined now – in terms of helping the manufacturing sector to adapt, recover and become more resilient – is the same technology that was discussed at the start of the year in the context of driving efficiency, sustainability and innovation.

Transforming supply chains with IoT, AI and automation  

Indeed, digital transformation almost always delivers continuous, evolving and sometimes unexpected benefits to an organisation. It’s rarely a single solution to a single problem. In fact, the most important advantages often turn out to be those that were barely considered when the process was initiated.

Take supply chain optimisation. Many customers use our technology to tame the near-overwhelming complexity of their supply chains. With a combination of IoT and other innovations, we help them to map their whole ecosystem in real time, and use AI to make decisions faster and more accurately. Up till a few months ago, this was chiefly for purposes of financial, logistical and environmental efficiency. But since the mass disruption to the global economy, it’s become a matter of business continuity, and in some cases, even survival.

In the same way, industry leaders agree that 2020/2021 will see a great acceleration in digitalisation initiatives like smart factories, connected product innovation, remote controls and above all: automation.

Manufacturing through the COVID-19 crisis   

The following articles were written by different subject matter experts from Microsoft. And they straddle the difficult, yet fascinating period from pre-outbreak to lockdown, through to the present day, when societies are taking cautious steps back to normality.

In this article, which was written before the coronavirus outbreak, Max Tchapeyou explains why manufacturing needs to focus on workforce transformation. And why now is the perfect time to attract younger and more diverse talent.

In another ‘pre-outbreak’ article, Patrick Van Loon explains why manufacturers get stuck in ‘pilot purgatory’ with AI and ML projects. And he draws lessons from Henry Ford’s ground-breaking production line for how to escape it.

There’s a highly relevant article by Valerio Frediani, who talks to Koen Groothaert from steel wire manufacturer, Bekaert, about a project called ‘Digital Way of Working’. It’s about introducing Smart Manufacturing Apps, which will have actually proven invaluable since the coronavirus outbreak.

Roger Mueller on connected product innovation is equally essential reading. He sets out in detail how manufacturers can continue innovating while engineers across a distributed process remain at home.

Elsewhere, Christoph Pawlowski describes how stainless steel manufacturer, Outokumpu, is using Microsoft technology to become greener, much of which will have helped them be more resilient too.

And lastly, Christoffer Sundgren talks to Mathias Johansson from Swedish cutting-tool manufacturer, Sandvik Coromant, about why partnership and collaboration are helping them overcome challenges in these disruptive times.

Free eBook: Connect Your Data to Your Decision Making

The IoT Guide for Business Leaders

Discover more related articles per industry:

Education

Finance & Insurance

  • a person standing in front of a window

    Business continuity in financial services

    During these uncertain times, Microsoft is committed to supporting financial service customers and their regulators around the globe.

  • a view of a city

    Harvesting data helps save water

    With more than 140 years of history, the financial service company Ibercaja is deeply invested in the north-east region of Spain. In order to support its rural clients and solve the local water scarcity problems, the company now helps farmers to digitally transform their crop management. Key to this transformation are “Internet of Things“ enabled […]

Government

Healthcare

Manufacturing

  • Two Engineers preparing to service a clean room

    ASML: Redefining customer support with mixed reality technology

    “In our industry, the stakes are high. If one of our machines were down for a day, the cost for a chipmaker could run into the millions.” Working under pressure is something that Michiel Haverkorn Van Rijsewijk has grown used to since he started as the Director of Customer Support at ASML in February 2020. Within a month of starting at the world’s largest semiconductor lithography equipment maker, the company’s long-established […]

  • 5 ways you know you’re ready for connected field service

    5 ways you know you’re ready for connected field service

    More and more often, customer satisfaction is becoming the key to success. Emergency repairs often lead to high costs and great frustration for customers, so, understandably, you want to do everything you can to avoid them. Data and the Internet of Things help make this task a lot easier by enabling you to offer a […]

Retail

  • Woman shopping in store

    Inside Store Lens’ mission to combine online shopping and physical retail  

    With e-commerce gaining traction and COVID-19 forcing a change in traditional shopping trends, high-street retailers have a great opportunity to reinvent themselves and modernize their in-store experience. This is the concept behind Store Lens, a Swedish startup that aims to bring the best of online shopping to the physical retail space – helping in-store shopping […]

  • A man standing in front of an industrial food refrigerator

    Bell Food Group: Proving the benefits of digitalization through a Power Platform solution

    “We expected a few drawings or designs to see what the product-tasting app would look like – but instead, they came in with a working model. We were all speechless, and really impressed at how fast Power Platform allows you to build something that works.” Valery Thomas, Head of Business Intelligence, Analytics and Digitalization at […]

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

Digital Transformation

  • A man at a factory looking at a tablet

    Making the Schiphol Airport more sustainable into the future

    With over 71 million passengers a year, Schiphol is one of the biggest airports in Europe. Giving all of the passengers the most frictionless airport experience as possible, 17,000 assets need to be serviced and maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In order to deliver service excellence and optimize the maintenance, BAM […]

Security & Privacy

Tips

  • Group of two female and one male office workers brainstorming in informal office setting. Both women are using laptops while the man is writing. Large screen shown in background.

    2019 Modern Selling Trends in 5 webinars

    The relationship between buyers and sellers grows more complicated each day. Every potential partnership requires finding the right buyer, fully understanding their business, tracking progress through the buying cycle, and engaging them with the right content—when and how they want it. These shifting dynamics underscore the artistry of modern selling. When the time is right, […]