At the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, the digital transformation journey was discussed from various angles – the technologies, best practices, the challenges, and the people.  In a freewheeling interview, ARC’s Greg Gorbach, Vice President, and James Destro, VP Manufacturing Practice and Digital Solutions, Hitachi Vantara, spoke about topics of mutual interest.  This blog focuses on the highlights of their conversation.  You can watch the interview here or/and on YouTube.


Charter for Manufacturing Practice

Greg began the session by asking about his role at Hitachi Vantara and the charter for the manufacturing practice. 

James leads the manufacturing practice team, which consists of subject matter experts in the manufacturing space, as well as digital transformation experts.  “So, we can help companies go from operational improvements all the way through digital improvements,” he said. 

The company’s approach is “customer first,” offering both operational and digital advisory.  Through the company’s value engineering efforts, their customers can adopt the best approach to achieve ROI and build out a full business case towards their initiatives.  “Additionally, we offer asset rich solutions, so we can provide our IP that we’ve learned from existing implementations inside of Hitachi manufacturing environments, and provide those to our customers,” explained James. 

Further, he said that the company drives outcomes specifically around equipment reliability and availability; predictive quality in terms of reduction of scrap, reduction of rework, and overall improvement of the quality, plant efficiency, and throughput.  “Underpinning all of this is our technology, our IoT platform, and data services,” said James.   This is implemented with a hyper focus on the outcomes that their customers are trying to drive.  Finally, this is packaged together with a white glove service, so that these solutions can be run long term, reducing the total cost of ownership for the customers from implementation to production.

Customer Requirements for Digital Transformation Journey

“What do your customers want and how can you help them?” asked Greg. 

James said that in the manufacturing space, the customers talk about challenges related to equipment reliability, throughput, and being asked to do more with less.  Customers are looking for more throughput, customer experience, and flexibility in the manufacturing process, and they want to do all this at lower operational costs.  So, customers approach the company and some of them don’t know how to start their manufacturing digital transformation journey.  

The company provides advisory services to help them get started and progress on that journey.  Experience shows that there are two distinct silos, operational and data from the IT and the OT expertise insight of the companies.  “Through our processes, we bring them together, and we unite them around common outcomes and goals that they’re trying to achieve.   And bringing the data together really drives data science as well as physics-based types of engineering outcomes for the customers as well,” said James. 

This approach drives the digital transformation journey.  But, still the customer feels that the returns are not commensurate.  The company realized that what is missing in the equation is the aspect of “people change.”  So, the company has introduced change management as part of its routine implementations. “This helps to truly transform the organization, not just from a digital technology perspective, but also from an operations perspective,” said James.

Portfolio of Manufacturing Solutions

The company offers a broad range of technology, services, and capabilities that includes its video insights portfolio.  This brings together the company’s capability to “measure the unmeasurable,” such as capabilities to measure the people and the process along with instrumenting the equipment.  “Through advanced solutions, such as video analytics, we can start to drive that in a normal and efficient operation.  We can measure what would be a golden performance in terms of operation and look for deviations through that,” said James.

Further, he spoke about Solution Cores, which are reusable elements of capability that can be implemented across the board.  “So, it’s a very modular approach, and it allows us to get to the outcomes that our customers drive.”

The Digital Ecosystem

Responding to Greg’s query about working within the digital ecosystem, James said that this is done in several different ways with different partners.  First, the technology is embedded, then the services are added, for which third parties are integrated to provide a complete solution to the customer.  The company works with its cloud technology partners to offer cloud-based solutions for the most cost effective environments.  “But, we can also deploy it to our own enterprise cloud when companies need an on premise, a private type of cloud solution,” added James.  The company also has partnerships with large ERP vendors, such as Oracle and SAP (gold partner), for such implementations and large-scale cloud migrations.

Concluding the interview, James said, “What really drives the power of digital transformation is the entire Hitachi ecosystem: about 110 years of OT expertise, all the manufacturing facilities, the Japanese methodology for improving manufacturing and continuous improvement, background and heritage in IT (over 60 years).”