At ITSF Club 2021 recently held in Kazan, a wide range of pressing IT issues were discussed including digital transformation of business which became one of the key topics. Digitalization of business processes was debated at the discussion panel with Ayrat Khayrullin, Minister of Digitalization of Public Administration, Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Tatarstan. This very topic was mentioned many times by different guest speakers and experts. However, Smart Manufacturing solutions for manufacturing enterprise management were placed under closest scrutiny at the topical panel discussion moderated by Kirill Menshov, Senior Vice President for IT, Rostelecom PJSC, and Sergey Koshcheev, Editor-in-Chief of Realnoe Vremya LLC.
You will not grasp the enterprise with your mind?
Smart Manufacturing has been discussed for about ten years now since the concept of Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution was developed. Today many companies steer toward mass implementation of IT solutions in manufacturing and industrial practices, increased automation of business processes and use of artificial intelligence. However, the term “Smart Factory” is still rather vague. At the round table discussion held within the framework of ITSF Club 2021, the attendees who are also key players in the Russian IT market started debating this issue by trying to work out a more precise definition of this term.
“Smart bus stop with live departure board is not a “smart” city yet. But it’s a great initiative,” pointed out Rim Khalitov, Head of System Integration Department at ICL, who suggested that the event participants should give examples of smart technologies. He also added that a city can be considered sufficiently “smart” if it uses the full range of IT and ICT technologies including smart bus stops, too.
As for the manufacturing, the definitions were even more blurred. The attendees agreed that enterprise maturity scale can be used for diagnostic purposes but it is quite disputable too.
“If 30% of business processes of the enterprise are automated, can we consider it “smart” or only aspiring to become one? And if 50% of business processes are well-tuned and running smoothly without hands-on management, are we dealing with a “smart” company?” Alexander Usmaev, Director for Automation of Sheshmaoil LLC, proposed to set exact figures for the sake of clarity.
According to his colleagues, the scope of tasks as well as the need for automation are likely to grow amidst on-going changes and total digitalization will not be instantaneous. Implementation of IT practices that meet market needs as well as internal needs of the company are a way to build a Smart enterprise. However, there are also dead ends that you’d better avoid.
Digitalization for the sake of digitalization
One of the attendees shared a case story that was received with knowing nods all around the room. Face recognition software was implemented at a construction company to enable employee ID check for site access. Back then this technology had just entered the market and senior management of the company wanted to be on trend. There was no pressing need for such software but funds were easily raised for it, albeit at the expense of more immediate needs. All in all, the software solution now runs with disruptions and failures because many employees are wearing hard hats, welding helmets, and other accessories that hinder face recognition.
Sadly, there are lots of similar examples. Products that perfectly integrate into certain businesses can be blindly chosen and implemented for companies where they are of little help or no use. Furthermore, following analysis and review, IT product is usually found guilty of all failure rather than those decision makers who put it to improper use.
Representatives of software developers admitted that in such a case it’s easier for them to refuse a customer rather than put the reputation of the brand or software product at risk. According to them, a negotiation is a real success when you can persuade a customer to give up unnecessary options and unsuitable products.
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