Collaboration with partners is the key to effectively embracing technological change writes Industry 4.0 Week partner Accenture
The pace of technological change and breadth of expertise required in today’s industrial landscape mean companies operating in isolation will struggle to be competitive. A successful future means integrating with partners in a collaborative ecosystem.
Industrial businesses understand this and we have seen more and more collaboration with new partners, including start-ups. But the results often disappoint. A better understanding of ‘open innovation’ is needed.
Take one of the current industrial mega-projects that we will all have heard a lot about: autonomous vehicles. The success of this new industry depends upon car manufacturers, software developers, service providers, civil engineers, city planners and governments. Without any one of these players within the ecosystem, the project will fail. Faurecia, a leading automotive technology company, has teamed with Accenture to develop a “digital services factory”, allowing collaborative working with its ecosystem partners. This gives Faurecia the best capabilities and resources to develop flexible, next-generation services for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). More importantly, Faurecia can tailor hardware and digital services to an OEM’s needs, helping them to focus on their customers as much as their cars.
Within just two months of the factory being up and running, Faurecia and Accenture created the “cockpit of the future”, incorporating touch displays, state-of-the-art applications and a voice assistant that becomes the new user interface in the car.
In the Industry X.0 landscape, ecosystems such as this are the norm. So how can manufacturing companies emulate this approach to maximise value? There are five tips every business should know:
1 Harness the power of collective intelligence
Industrial companies can no longer source everything they need internally, because technology is changing too quickly. For example, every new car produced is increasingly connected. To do this requires expertise in telecommunications, AI and data analytics that car manufacturers often don’t have internally. Nor do they have time to build them.
Car manufacturers can find these capabilities in an open ecosystem. Ford has partnered with Amazon for voice assistance capabilities; Renault-Nissan has teamed with Microsoft for predictive maintenance and advanced navigation expertise; and BMW works with Mobileye’s driver assistance systems. But regardless of industry, the goal is the same: open the ecosystem to new skills, expertise and technologies.
2 Build products as platforms
In the Industry X.0 era, most intelligent and connected industrial products will be integrated into digital platforms. Value will no longer just come from the product itself, but from the data it collects and the ecosystem built around it. Here again, the automotive industry leads the way: the car of tomorrow will be much more than just a vehicle.
The car isn’t the only example of digital platforms. Ubudu tracks assets via its platform to improve the productivity of its factories and the safety of personnel. And pioneering digital platforms like Predix (GE), MindSphere (Siemens) and Azure (Microsoft) all have the potential to become the nucleus of vast industrial ecosystems, bolstered by startups who can be invited to enrich application catalogues.
‘In the Industry X.0 era, most intelligent and connected industrial products will be integrated into digital platforms’
3 Before you build the technology think about how it’ll be used
Start-ups are rightly seen as innovation accelerators, partly for the open innovation approaches they’ve popularised. However, partnerships with industrial companies often end in frustration. A study suggests that more than 50 per cent of large companies saw these partnerships as failures. Why? Because open innovation programmes are often limited by technical feasibility and don’t consider industrial deployment.
Innovation is often measured on how many proofs of concept are created – but that’s not a useful indicator for the business. New ideas need to be relevant to customers and technologically scalable if they’re to be adopted. As the saying goes: think big, start small, grow fast.
For example, SNCF’s partnership with vehicle rental business OuiCar isn’t just about technology. It’s about providing customers with an enriched and personalised end-to-end travel offer.
4 Involve users from the start
To give an innovation project the best chance of success, involve users from the start. That’s the approach Safran Nacelles took when it partnered with a VR specialist and future operators to find ways of speeding up a new production line.
Many companies, however, select a startup before they identify any use cases. That turns open innovation into a lottery. Multiplying partnerships with startups will not guarantee success. As Elon Musk said: “Very often, finding the question is more difficult than finding the answer.”
5 Remove cultural and organisational obstacles
A recent Harvard Business Review article stressed that the inefficiency of some open innovation policies is more a consequence of cultural and organisational obstacles than technical barriers. To overcome these and ensure a robust ecosystem, companies should take the following actions:
- Develop a strategic vision—open innovation policies must take the company’s objectives into account to ensure usefulness and prevent random innovation
- Involve leaders—to reinforce the influence of open innovation internally and consider startup partner aspirations
- Break down silos—encourage every employee in the ecosystem to participate: the broader the inputs the greater the chance of success
- Avoid a culture of secrecy—encourage open ecosystems based on agile, evolving partnerships that attract and retain the best talent
- Adopt a flexible approach—adapt to the needs of both customer and organisation by abandoning rigid joint ventures and opting for collaborative partnerships and flexible contracts
For more information get in touch with DigitalUKIMarketing@accenture.com
Are you at Hannover Messe April 1-5? Come swing by our Accenture booth in Hall 6, Booth H46 to see Industry X.0 in action, have a chat and register for some panel sessions.
Accenture is the partner of The Engineer’s 2019 Industry 4.0 week