Martin Friis National Co-ordinator Testbed Smart Production, Produktion2030, Teknikföretagen

The time of the “Digitala Stambanan” is now!

Publicerad: 7 December 2020

People usually ask me what I work with. When I say Digitala Stambanan, the next question comes automatically: What is it? Well, how much time do you have left over ...?

Digitala Stambanan is a visionary and exploratory collaborative project on future efficiency, digitalisation, and value creation in industrial value chains. The vision of the future digital backbone is that it will enable digital collaboration between people, machines, and systems, both within individual organizations but also between them. It is not only important to enable the exchange of information between system-systems, but also between human-system or system-machine.

In the project, we work on an overall level with an explanatory model to clarify what a digital mainstream can mean and entail. But to get there, we map the value chains' specific problems and opportunities that can be remedied and automated with the help of technology. The goal is to increase the understanding of the potential in digital transformation and integration of Swedish industry. The project has 28 participating organizations divided into producing companies, technology suppliers as well as academia and institutes. The work focuses on 8 different value chains that together cover everything from the process industry's production of raw materials, via subcontractors up to large OEMs.

When dealing with future-oriented projects, it can be good to remember that “We tend to overestimate the effect of new technology in the short term but underestimate it in the long term”. That quote has come to be called Amara's law after the American computer scientist Roy Amara (1925-2007). Just because the inflated expectations we have of technology today are not realized immediately does not mean that the work performed should be fuzzy or unnecessary. On the contrary, we need to invest even more in building knowledge and developing good examples. It helps us to go faster on our development journey and shorten the time for industrial implementation.

We do not have a business case with payback of less than 3 years, instead we try to create a system in the approach and knowledge for the benefit of Swedish industry.

The technology is mature. The time of the digital mainstream is now! You who can, think back 15-20 years and reflect on what society looked like then and what it looks like now. You who can remember even further back see an even bigger difference. Much has changed in a relatively short time in our lives. We are constantly connected and always have access to communication and real-time information to support our decisions. Now this is making an impact in the industry. Industrialization, which during the 20th century competed and created value through mass production and efficiency, is now gradually being replaced by demands for individualized products, which creates a higher degree of complexity. This is where digitalisation and the Digital Main Line come in as enabling this change. In my opinion, it is not the technology that is the challenge but how to apply it. Digitization or digital transformation is from my perspective about reviewing and driving change in how we work and what we work with. Technology is a tool, but it is difficult to change processes, organizations, corporate cultures and, to a very high degree, people.

Through its streamlining, mass production has created silos. Today's organizations and sub-organizations are very good and efficient at delivering specific value in a static constellation. The problem is that nothing is static. When we work in silos, we find it difficult to work across borders and meet change. If you think that your future looks much like it has in recent years, then invest more in streamlining and building silos. Do you instead think that the future will look different, it is important to already now focus on knowledge building and innovation, ie do new things or do the same things in a new way. A first step can be to take a holistic perspective on value creation, open up the silos and use our good ability to work together. In a changing world, the static time of silos is over.

What we are experiencing right now is a big change, which we will remember for a long time to come. Covid-19, a pandemic that totally paralyzes people, companies, countries ... a whole world. The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of our global value chains. It did not take long before companies were unable to produce after countries closed down and subcontractors were unable to deliver. Companies are now working out new strategies to ensure resilient value chains in order to survive and be able to develop. We as humans have also been forced into new ways of dealing with our everyday lives and how we relate to each other. In many cases, we have found quick ways to change because the change is happening here and now.

Industrial digitization is not as intense, and the change is not forced in the same way as Covid-19. Nevertheless, industrial transformation is necessary for our industries to survive and compete with the rest of the world. Digitala Stambanan wants to act as a catalyst for industry to build and disseminate knowledge about future working methods and value creation in the value chains. That is why I’m passionate about this project. I also know that Sweden has every opportunity to be at the forefront. We have the conditions as we are good at collaborating with each other, have high technology and digitalisation maturity. Large parts of our industrial value chains are located within the country. It can only be success.

Published 2020-12-07  |  Authored by Martin Friis