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Business comes first, then tech

Companies will be left with "technology clutter" if they do not have the right approach to digitalisation

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"It helps them make a very educated and justifiable conversation with their different vendors and partners." - Surya Tumuluri, Siemens Singapore's head of digital factory manufacturing design. He says that customers who understand "digital levers" will be in a better position to decide what tech to prioritise

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"It helps them make a very educated and justifiable conversation with their different vendors and partners." - Surya Tumuluri (above), Siemens Singapore's head of digital factory manufacturing design. He says that customers who understand "digital levers" will be in a better position to decide what tech to prioritise

Singapore

MANUFACTURERS in Singapore have adopted digital manufacturing techniques to a much higher degree than their regional counterparts, but companies should not be going digital for the sake of doing so, said Surya Tumuluri, Siemens Singapore's head of digital factory manufacturing design.

That risks something Mr Tumuluri terms "technology clutter", a pitfall which companies could find themselves in if they do not have the right approach to digitalisation.

He gave the example of the apps on an average smartphone.

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"I bet you if you open your phone, you're going to see a hundred apps of which you probably use less than 10 per cent," he said.

"This is exactly what goes on with enterprises as well. They do a POC (proof of concept) here, a POC there, and then people forget about it. It's a lot of money invested and a lot of effort, and that has to be channelled."

That focus on sustainable goals is part of what ZerOne.DesIgn - Siemens Singapore's new consultancy arm - aims to achieve, through helping Singapore companies achieve their digitalisation goals via specific and targeted means.

A three-step process is crucial for companies to adopt digitalisation faster and more efficiently, Mr Tumuluri told The Business Times in an interview, with companies needing to narrow down and identify their areas of focus for digitalisation.

It's not simply following the trend of every company developing mobile apps, or putting up more robots, Mr Tumuluri said.

"They need to identify areas in their value chain, where value can be developed," he said.

"Secondly, they need to educate themselves on what are the technology levers that can help add value to those focus areas. The business comes first, then technology."

The third step involves companies having a coordinated roadmap to "bootstrap", a term meaning to start with smaller resources to create something larger and more complex.

You use the success of a prior POC to "bootstrap your next initiative, and the next initiative, and so you have (built) momentum", Mr Tumuluri said.

Siemens' ZerOne.DesIgn (pronounced zero-one-dot-design) consultancy aims to give its customers specific information on spurring innovation in their businesses, instead of providing generic, off-the-shelf solutions, Mr Tumuluri said, adding that it helps drive "non-linear" traction into how customers are thinking.

Through ZerOne.DesIgn, Siemens provides the platform for digital solutions to customers, but at the same time brings onboard other technology vendors to augment its efforts.

The consultancy has a wide range of customers, ranging from inflight catering, semiconductor and solar panel, to the cosmetics and food and beverage (F&B) industries.

Customers first get a "bill of digitalisation", which outlines the functional specifications of what their solution will encompass.

That in turn leads to "digital enablers", which help the customer understand at which part of their value chain they can deploy technology and create value.

It is at this point, Mr Tumuluri said, that customers will begin to understand what kinds of technology - or "digital levers" - they can adopt, instead of going at it from the opposite direction of adopting the technology first.

By doing so, customers can ask their technology vendors specific questions such as: "Can you help me do exactly this" or "can your software help me do this", Mr Tumuluri said.

"It helps them make a very educated and justifiable conversation with their different vendors and partners. So now the relationship's changed, from a vendor-customer to a partnership. That's essentially what we want to enable."

It is important to build up an ecosystem of partners, of your own suppliers and vendors, who can come along with you on this digitalisation journey, Mr Tumuluri noted.

It is a path the consultancy firmly believes that companies should adopt, to avoid the pitfalls of digitalisation.

"Siemens has one of the most comprehensive portfolios for digitalisation. But even then, no one company can do it alone," he said.