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The world around us is evolving constantly, making our lives easier in the process. This article explains the necessity of digital adoption and the impact it can create across industries. 

Digitization, Digitalization, and Digital Transformation 

Digitization and digitalization are subsets of digital transformation, but these terms differ in context. Let’s make it clear:

Digitization – This is a digital form of any physical objects or attributes. Some examples include scanning a paper document to make a digital document, taking a photocopy of an originally written draft, etc. In other words, it is an interface between the physical world and software. 

Digitalization – Digitization refers to the enablement/improvement of processes through digitized data, with digital technology. In other words – the process of converting information from an Analog to a digital format. Its salient purposes may be to improve business, simplify operations, create revenues, and reduce costs. Digitalization ultimately results in Digital Transformation – which has the potential to transform all business aspects, such as customer behavior and touchpoints, enterprise mobile applications, growth strategy, business market & its realities, etc. 

COVID-19 and Digital Transformation 

2020, a year that’s best forgotten, has but given us lessons never to be forgotten. It was a year of unprecedented challenges for company leaders, who were forced to think differently and consider their decisions and actions against broader societal impacts. 

Digital Transformation (DX) initiatives implemented before the Pandemic proved crucial in maintaining business continuity during a season of uncertainties. And right through the crisis period, we have witnessed technological changes that would have otherwise taken years to get mainstream. Reports suggest that these efforts are generating tangible business value across industries, which includes new revenue streams and speedier, efficient work. A few of these developments will be discussed in this article.  

Why Go Digital? 

  1. It creates significant business value, which includes cost reduction and improved employee experience. 
  2. Focus on attracting, retaining, and upskilling talent with digital and engineering skills has reportedly provided the greatest impact on all aspects of business development. 
  3. Technology systems like data analytics are a critical enabler of new sources of revenue while strengthening the current revenue streams. 
  4. Building capabilities in one area must often go hand-in-hand with the development of a few others, as these capabilities reinforce one another. Such multiple initiatives could potentially increase values. 
  5.  The broader use of advanced technologies enhances the scope of value creation.

BIM – a Catalyst 

Digitization is constantly changing the way the construction industry functions. An example of the same is BIM (Building Information Modelling), which is considered a catalyst that unites all project data into an integrated platform. It spans the entire chain of building projects – from design to build operations, paving the way for teams to deliver projects with more certainty. 

As time went by, project works required more companies and stakeholders to coordinate across different time zones, prompting the need for more seamless connections and faster access to real-time information and insights. This led to the birth of ‘BIM in the cloud’. 

The construction industry is all set to face mammoth changes in the near future, with an overhaul expected in many basic functionalities across the supply chain, including safety training

3D and Digital Twins – Industry 4.0 Perspective

BIM plus enriched data is an ultimate enabler of the fourth industrial revolution, which is represented in a digital twin.

Digital twin – A dynamic replica to a physical asset that brings together design, construction, and operational data. In other words, a 3D version of the asset. 

Owners today desire more control over their projects as they are tired of being the victims of the industrial value chain. They get affected the most when projects get over the budget.

Large projects are, on average, up to 80% over budget – a Mckinsey Report

Hence, to control operations, they need the tools to manage the design-and-build process, a digital asset mapped to the physical building for controlling operations. This will help in:

  • Simulating, predicting, and informing decisions based on behavioral data from sensors.   
  • Defining project goals in the digital asset and pushing it to the value chain using digital-twin technologies such as Autodesk Tandem.
  • Receiving paperless data from architects

The backbone of the digital twins would be a Common Data Platform (CDP), which is built to aggregate files and data from BIM processes and drive project goals with data-driven insights. 

Meeting Sustainability Goals 

Digitization helps owners to reduce maintenance costs and thereby meet sustainable goals. Let’s take the example of a building where the managers are required to change air-conditioning filters on a frequent basis. Today, the likes of these can be managed by using a simple spreadsheet, which can list every infrastructure asset with dates. 

Moreover, an Augmented Reality platform can keep them abreast of every maintenance need. Add AI into the mix, and building managers have the benefit of predictive maintenance – whereby a manager can predict a system failure beforehand and service it before it does.

A Digital-Native Manufacturing System 

Not all manufacturing systems are designed inadequately (but were certainly designed for the times). Today’s problems are different from yesterday though, and some of the manufacturing methodologies and performance are Analog and therefore too fragile to suit the major market needs. They are simply not capable of maintaining production resiliency and agility in an era where the response to change defines the bottom line. 

What we need now is a flexible and agile performance management system that can support rapid adjustments to market demands, through actionable and accurate insights. 

A digital native system can remove any fragile bottlenecks by consistently monitoring operations and empowering frontline workers with real-time information. 

A Better Way to Empower Frontline Workers 

Frontline workers across various industries form a critical part of the performance mix, contributing to significant revenues. Conventional information delivery systems leave a lot to be desired, due to the significant knowledge gap they face and lack of a continuous feedback loop. Workforces could waste a chunk of their time by searching and gathering for the most trivial information. 

A digital management system can standardize the huge number of unstructured and structured processes across industrial operations while providing much-needed visibility across the chain. 

Benefits for the Front Line workers – Effective collaboration, faster work, identification of critical issues and the quicker tackling of it, access to real-time data and feedback, and more. 

Benefit for middle managers – They would be better equipped to deal with data-driven information, and have access to all operational information at full scale. Other benefits include easier work assignment, remote management, and inspection, etc.  

Overall Benefits – Standardized and scalable, automated workflow, cost-efficiency, profitable, hassle-free, and a lot more.  

Rehabilitation 

Rehabilitation in its traditional form, as many experts have even felt and expressed, has plenty of constraints that limit its success rates. Technological innovations, both existing and forthcoming, are expected to enhance the scope of diagnosis, treatment, patient recovery, and resident management. 

Empathy, it’s Priceless 

The technological advances of today present us an opportunity to foster relationships and build an integrated community, be it in the workplace or our society. Empathy, or in other words, being in another person’s shoes, is a crucial element that helps to build such an integration. Its benefits include improved product/service offerings, Increased efficiencies, and scaled-up ROI 

Machine learning tools of the future could predict the likelihood of an unhealthy online conversation. Nextdoor, ‘a San-Francisco based private social neighbourhood hub for trusted and helpful connections’ has a kindness reminder that alerts users if they type a word or phrase that has been reported by other users.

Now, let’s introduce you to a technology that has been branded by many as an empathy machine, Virtual Reality.  This powerful technological medium allows people to put on a headset and embody a different experience or absorb different perspectives in a more literal way, and thereby develop empathy towards the object of experience. 

We can only realize and unearth the complete potential of technology by understanding the way human users interact with platforms, systems, and processes. And this is even more important today, when accelerated digital transformation seems necessary to ensure business continuity.