Last week, I had the honor to attend the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, FL.

Organized by ARC Advisory Group, the forum is one of the best digital transformation events I’ve attended –  4 days packed with interesting keynotes and panels covering the digital transformation of Industry.

A common theme this year was the convergence of IT, OT and IoT.

ARC’s research on the matter is one of the best and it was great to see they’re thinking about this in a very similar way that we are at Tulip.

The great thing about the event was being able to hear practitioners talk about their own digital transformation journey.

The highlight in this regard was hearing Dan Ron speak.

Dan is a statistician by training, and a process engineer by heart, who embodies the spirit we’re hoping to empower at Tulip –  innovative, driven, and a hacker (in the best sense of the word).

Unsurprisingly, Dan is one of our earliest customers, and he’s been one of the key driving forces behind Dentsply’s adoption of manufacturing apps in production.

His presentation was aptly titled “How Digital Transformation Impacts the Workforce”.

Unlike many of the ‘expert’ speakers in the Industry, Dan has actually walked the talk.

He pioneered Dentsply’s adoption of manufacturing apps and for the past few years has been leveraging them to drive continuous improvement in his operation.

Given his hands-on experience with digital manufacturing, I found his definition of Industry 4.0 refreshing.

For him, Industry 4.0 is not defined by robots, IoT or any particular technology.

For him, it is about leading a work life that is similar to our personal life.

I think in an industry full of meaningless buzzwords, the simplicity of this definition is brilliant.

What Dan means is that in our personal lives, we live in digital-land. But when we get to work at a factory, we enter analog-land.

Living in digital-land has many benefits. For example, you have a device in your pocket at all times with hundreds of apps for all your needs and all the information you might need at your fingertips.

To illustrate the contrast between analog and digital land, Dan drew the parallel with the weather and music.

When our lives were analog, we stored music in cassettes and got our weather information from the nightly news.

Cassettes were bulky and slow – you couldn’t carry them around conveniently, search or skip songs easily.

Nightly weather forecasts were always lagging behind, with information either too late or too early.

Today, thanks to our smartphones, we can listen to any song we want on demand and access up to date weather data at all times.

This ability to have granular, specific, real-time information on demand has several benefits.

First, better data lets you make better decisions. Rather than having to wait until the nightly weather forecast to plan your day, you can check weather info anytime and plan accordingly.

Second, having this up to date data reduces our cognitive load (unnecessary effort exerted by our working memory).

Rather than worrying and spending energy thinking about the different scenarios, we can focus on getting things done.

The metaphor extends beautifully to production.

When production is living in analog-land, data is stored in bulky paper, it is always lagging behind, and people don’t have the right information at the right time.

When production is run in digital-land, you gain access to real-time data and all the info you need to make decisions on demand.

So, how to get from analog-land to digital-land?

Mike Guilfoyle from ARC, presented a very useful maturity model as a framework. As you’re thinking through this challenge yourself, I encourage you to read the full report.

ARC Workforce Maturity Model

ARC Workforce Maturity model stages

I’d like to end by sharing Dan’s thoughts on the matter.

After all, he’s lived through this as the leader behind Densply’s adoption of manufacturing apps, so if there is anyone who can share wisdom is him.

His advice was to the point:

  1. Include everyone in the digital transformation, especially operators, by encouraging them to provide ideas and shape the project
  2. Start small, digitizing 1 operation with 1 employee or station, and expand once you’ve added value there
  3. Don’t try to change the work people do, rather give them relevant information to help them do a better job, including tighter feedback loops

The similarities between Dan’s recommendations as a practitioner and ARC’s framework speak volumes to the quality of ARC’s research and the caliber of Dan’s thinking.

At Tulip, we are obsessed with our customers.

Hearing them talk about their first-hand experience with their digital transformation journey, is always eye-opening which is why we recently started a user council.

Through it, we get continuous feedback on our platform and our customers can directly shape the direction of our product.

Thank you, Dan, for sharing your insights and thank you ARC for putting together such an incredible event and inviting us!