Failed Transformations…Learn from Their Mistakes

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Business

Failed Transformations…Learn from Their Mistakes

Wrong Strategy, Wrong Partner, and Wrong Technologies are the 3 big reasons why Digital Transformation initiatives fail.

Why It Matters

Many manufacturers have spoken up about past digital projects and initiatives, and why they failed. In fact, I discussed this very topic with a manufacturing client this past week…regarding his conversations with many manufacturers. We summarized the failures he heard about to these three points…the same points that we hear, and Walker Reynolds (from 4.0 Solutions) so often discusses:

  • Wrong Strategy
  • Wrong Technologies
  • Wrong Partner


Go Deeper

Wrong Strategy

A challenge we often see and which comes up in conversations with multiple manufacturers is a lack of a digital strategy. Many companies take an ad hoc approach, solving a problem with a quick solution and not going any further.

Example: A company realizes they need to measure OEE and get the top reasons for unplanned machine downtime. What do they do? They buy a small OEE monitoring system that does nothing else. That solution will presumably give them good answers. However, after 6-12 months they’ll be asking…what’s next? And there is no good answer.

What we want today is based on what we know. I know I want to dig a hole so I get a shovel. However, if I thought ahead to my end goal, I might realize I need a backhoe and some basic blueprints for what I’m planning.

Best Practice: Manufacturers should define the vision of what they want, then work backward to plan ahead, and define a strategy with an architecture and other principles to create guardrails for all decisions going forward.

Wrong Technologies

Two topics come up when talking with manufacturers regarding technologies:

1. We often hear SIs and large consulting companies bring an enterprise MES solution which ends up being a square peg that has difficulty fitting into the round whole of the unique, agile plant with a competitive advantage in how they operate.

Those square pegs are rarely a good fit. Manufacturers often only get 30%-60% of the capabilities needed. The consulting firms then attempt to force-fit the rest of the MES to address needs. This causes a manufacturer to work the way the MES does, rather than the other way around. As a result, the manufacturer often loses their ability to be flexible on the plant floor and potentially loses what makes them unique and competitive in the market.

2. Another challenge discussed was the problems with vendor lock-in. Some companies introduce technologies that work well, though can’t be connected with other systems not provided by that technology company. This vendor lock-in prevents the manufacturer from using other technologies that might solve a problem in a better way and/or save a lot of money.

Best Practice: Companies need affordable, scalable, widely supported technologies that will grow with them.

Wrong Partners

This topic came up frequently in our recent conversation, especially when talking about the large consulting and engineering firms.

Consulting and engineering firms are service firms…they trade hours for dollars. If they are customer-focused then they will not only give the manufacturer the net, they will also teach them how to fish, and define when they’re not needed anymore.

Unfortunately, there are firms out there that will be happy to continue selling fish forever, even if the manufacturer wants to and can learn how to fish. They are self-focused, not customer-focused.

Best Practice: A partner or solution provider should lead, strategize, guide, do, show, teach, and then eventually let the manufacturer take over the solution.

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