to the entire company. Once the journey to digitalisation has

begun, the leadership needs to maintain a close eye on its value. Every digital project needs a clear objective, which requires rigorous oversight. Managers need to ensure that any new technology delivers its promised benefits and recognise that some digitalisation projects will succeed while others fail.

COLLABORATIVE EFFORT The journey to digitalisation should not be done alone. Even large organisations do not have the expertise and resources to handle such complex changes by themselves, so they need a trusted and experienced partner. A good place to start the digitalisation

Introducing digitalisation across an entire organisation needs to be done in small steps and condition monitoring is a good place to make a start


ompanies across the manufacturing spectrum are racing to embrace

digitalisation, by fitting their machinery with monitoring sensors or gathering vital data from production lines. Using techniques such as these, they hope to improve connectivity and analytics, in order to raise productivity. SKF is one such company that is working closely with businesses across the globe to help facilitate this process. In its ‘Industry 4.0 Global Digital

Operations 2018’ survey, PWC said that UK companies expect digitalisation to deliver tangible benefits over the next five years. These benefits included an increase of around 10 per cent in average revenue, plus similar efficiency gains and cost reduction. Despite the high expectation, these figures were lower than for other places, such as Asia. Digitalisation comes in many forms.

Better connectivity helps machines to share data with one other, giving companies a clearer view of their actual productivity. Real-time data from these machines can also help to identify problems early and fix them before they become a problem.

SCALING PROBLEMS Although it makes sense to roll out these types of strategy across an entire organisation, this task is far from easy. Scaling up small, pilot


operations, which are commonly carried out within manufacturing, has proved a real challenge. Digitalisation of machinery is difficult

to scale because assets are so diverse. A manufacturing organisation is likely to use many types of machine, which may require very different approaches to digitalisation. For this reason, it is difficult to replicate digitalisation from one place to another. Instead, each new stage of implementation may require a new, tailored approach.

TAKING A JOURNEY The answer is to accept that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. Instead, companies should treat digitalisation as a journey, setting aspirations, but then implementing the plan in a stepwise fashion. Lean manufacturing has traditionally been driven by incremental performance improvements. In a way, digitalisation is a continuation of the Lean philosophy, as it provides tools and techniques that can improve performance. While digitalisation is most useful at the

front of the business, such as the factory floor, it is vital that senior management is fully involved. For a start, management must ensure that the right enablers are in place, such as by sanctioning changes to the organisation’s IT structure if required. Management is also responsible for communicating the digitalisation ‘vision’

Digitalisation of machinery is difficult to scale because assets are so diverse

journey is with condition-based monitoring (CBM), a common feature of many companies’ digital ‘toolbox’. Companies can now gather and extract massive amounts of useful data from its machines, using various sensors and analysis tools. Scaling this across an organisation, by choosing the correct approach for each asset, is difficult. This is because it depends on factors such as criticality of each piece of equipment and the consequences of it failing. However, this scaling can be achieved if

it is implemented as part of a scheme such as SKF’s Rotating Equipment Performance (REP) programme. Here, SKF uses its expertise to assess what type of digitalisation is required for each asset. Once a machine has been assessed, its performance can be improved and maintained. In addition to applying the correct sensing technology, to detect early failure, REP includes appropriate services. These include lubrication, spare part management and rebuild services, all of which help to extend asset life and cut maintenance costs. Digital solutions, from vibration sensors

to sophisticated analytical tools, are incorporated into a REP programme. Data can be shared in the cloud or even routed directly to SKF diagnostics experts, who can give real-time advice on dealing with problems. There is no doubt that individual assets

SKF T: + 44 (0) 1582 490 049

are improved with digital help. However, the true power of digitalisation comes when these assets can also be interlinked and their overall performance assessed and analysed. This requires digitalisation at scale, which, using a programme such as REP, can be achieved in an affordable and manageable way.


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