Fireside Series: Digital Transformation

September 14, 2017 • Posted in Technical, Webinars


To compete in the emerging digital economy, industrial businesses must start to embrace digital disruption, according to two experts on the subject featured in the fourth Fireside Chat webinar sponsored by M. Holland Company and Plastics News.

Neil Goodrich, Director of IT at M. Holland, and Eric Rehl, Director of Digital Business at Rockwell Automation, shared insights from some of their own experiences with digital transformations, including the digital journey they are navigating at M. Holland and Rockwell, both among the leaders of their respective industries in digital adoption.

Among their conclusions: Digital transformation is unique to each company and must begin with an examination of the user experience, whether the user is the customer, supplier or employee. For example, when M. Holland began its digital adventure three years ago, Goodrich traveled with account managers and shadowed client experience professionals to see first-hand how they worked. “We’re constantly analyzing our customer interactions to see how we can use digital tools to turn the status quo on its head, and make for a more meaningful experience,” Goodrich said. At Rockwell, which has multiple divisions, Rehl had to understand the nuances of each one and adapt digital tools accordingly.

Both speakers pointed out that, before delving head first into a digital change initiative, obtaining internal company buy-in is key. In fact, the biggest barrier to realizing a digital transformation is rarely the technology itself; rather it’s people who often resist the shift. In a recent study, 43 percent of business managers revealed that, aside from legacy IT systems, the biggest digital transformation hurdle is the company workforce.

To drive leadership endorsement and support, Rehl discussed providing “an overload of information on the value of customer experience.” He went on to further discuss that in manufacturing in particular, easing the burden of customers and suppliers should always be central to your approach in digital transformation.

Goodrich pointed out that, particularly in the manufacturing sector, customer experience is one of a company’s most important competitive advantages. “For M. Holland and our customers, our product isn’t a differentiator, but rather it’s their experience that can be a defining characteristic,” Goodrich explained.

While Eric discussed the importance of maintaining a customer perspective, particularly in his experience at Rockwell, it’s not just customers who want a seamless experience. Employees are also expecting a level of convenience when it comes to their workflow and company processes. When implemented with best practices and secure technology, a digital transformation will not only improve the employee and customer experiences, but it will also positively impact business development.

Ultimately, a digital journey is just that, a journey. It’s important to remember that a digital transformation should be an ongoing, scalable process, not a quick destination. Companies shouldn’t consider digital changes as negative; rather they should take the time to fully comprehend the potential benefits to workforce efficiency, business development, and customer satisfaction.

“Digital transformation has nothing to do with digital, it’s a business strategy,” Rehl summarized. “It’s evolving your business to be more capable in key areas and alters the way your company thinks and acts.”

Both Neil and Eric provided an engaging, in-depth look into navigating a successful digital transformation.

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