A Multifaceted Approach to Digital Transformation
Please elaborate on the transformation journey of Oshkosh Corporation in the manufacturing tech space and your role in spearheading it?
A few years ago, Oshkosh Corporation, a global industrial manufacturing company with facilities in the U.S., Europe, Mexico, Brazil, and China, embarked on a digital transformation journey. The company operates through four different business segments, manufacturing market leading specialty wheeled vehicles including military vehicles, fire apparatuses, construction lift equipment, refuse collection vehicles, and concrete mixers. As the senior vice president and CIO, my role is to spearhead our transformation journey involving all aspects of information and digital technology. First and foremost, this includes proactive management of the components that allow us to run our businesses efficiently and effectively, including global infrastructure, cybersecurity and our portfolio of business applications. However, it also includes identifying and building capabilities in emerging technology, which allows us to grow and transform our businesses such as advanced analytics, digital manufacturing, and intelligent automation.
Before introducing any new business-facing capabilities, we put a disciplined focus on enhancing our core technology. It was our goal to deliver a superior foundation of technology products at optimized costs. To accomplish this goal, we executed transformational initiatives in desktop, network, voice, and the service desk. These initiatives included migrating to cloud, leveraging chatbots and AI to create an intelligent service desk, and application to application connectivity. As a result, we enhanced credibility with our business partners and enabled self-funding opportunities to establish new capabilities.
The first step in our digital transformation journey was to begin leveraging data as a highly valued business asset by building a data science practice. Through advanced analytics, we continue to transform data from raw material into fuel to boost business decision-making. We are developing predictive and prescriptive models to augment business opportunities in sales, aftermarket, and supply chain processes. This is leading to enhanced financial performance at both the top and bottom lines.
Next, we looked at how technology could enhance manufacturing, our core business process. Our digital manufacturing focus is on incorporating technologies to enhance operational efficiency, quality, and the safety of our team members. At Oshkosh, our team members manufacture some of the world’s highest-performing vehicles; we must provide team members with the real-time information they need to accomplish their jobs safely, efficiently, and effectively.
As a people-first company, we are not only leveraging technology to give team members the tools they need to effectively do their jobs, we are leveraging automation to offload mundane tasks, enabling team members to focus their time on high-value, meaningful work. When people hear about automation, they often envision robots completing a tangible manufacturing task such as welding. However, in addition to specialized manufacturing automation, we are also utilizing automation within our supporting office functions. The primary technology we are implementing is known as Robotic Process Automation, a series of software bots that can automate rules-based tasks conducted on a desktop computer.
Our digital manufacturing focus is on incorporating technologies to enhance operational efficiency, quality, and the safety of our team members
A combination of a strong technology foundation and use of emerging capabilities enable us to create an “intelligent enterprise,” where technology assists team members in augmenting business processes. My advice to my team and other professionals is to be both value and customer-centric versus solely technology-centric, for external and internal customers alike.
What are the major pain points currently existing in the manufacturing tech space, and what is its current picture amidst COVID-19 pandemic?
In any situation, it is important to focus technology on relevant business challenges. This approach helps ensure we are enabling business value versus focusing on implementing the “coolest” new technology. As mentioned, our digital manufacturing efforts have been centered on enhancing operational efficiency, quality, and safety. These objectives are still relevant despite a global pandemic, but our use cases have shifted. For example, prior to COVID-19, we were leveraging wearables to notify team members when they had made an at-risk movement (e.g., lifting something too heavy, moving too quickly, etc.). Amidst COVID-19, we evolved this technology use case to include features that help maintain safe social distancing as well as introduced additional technology to implement efficient temperature screening.
What are the new technological trends emerging in the market that are helping the digital transformation journey?
Our tech radar includes a screening process where we continuously scan technologies available in the marketplace. From there, we determine a technology’s applicability to our business processes and its ability to help us achieve our goals and objectives. We then conduct a proof of concept and determine if the technology and use case have a viable business case before we move forward to determine the most efficient way to implement the technology. The emerging technologies currently being leveraged in our manufacturing operations include autonomous robots, augmented reality, IoT, cloud, and analytics.
Can you elaborate on the future of the manufacturing space, 12 to 18 months down the line?
Technology is invading the manufacturing space and augmenting human capabilities and business decision making in a way the industry has never seen before. In the next 18 months, manufacturing companies will distinguish themselves through their ability to quickly assimilate which technologies are relevant and enable value. Many companies will be busy conducting proof of concepts or pilots amongst several new technology use cases; other companies will advance more quickly by focusing on the few critical technologies which drive the most value. As technology advances, organizations’ understanding of the technology, its potential application, and the value proposition will increase simultaneously. Therefore, a company can create a competitive advantage through its ability to quickly identify, implement, and scale high-value, secure, technology solutions within manufacturing.