Systems-Driven Modeling Can Accelerate the Value of Digital Transformation in CPG


Digital has been a buzzword for decades, but many companies have struggled to deliver the benefits they envisioned.  

First attempts moved documents from file cabinets to digital storage. I call this “digitized.” Searching was easier, but it didn’t transform anything. Companies have also invested in many functionally-siloed solutions with customization to match how they work today.

However, the more digital our world becomes, the faster organizations need to adapt to a new industrial landscape. Tomorrow, companies will need more than advanced engineering and IT solutions. They will need to undertake organizational transformation and engage in peer-to-peer collaboration to drive success in the future.

A willingness to change is required if a company wants to transform. Change is required to create a digital ecosystem that can unleash employees to work differently and achieve more.

For decades, thought-leading consumer products companies have looked to their peers in the automotive industry for best practices on transforming innovation and manufacturing processes. The products are very different, and the complexity is in a different place, but there are many learnings that can accelerate the value of digital transformation in the consumer products industry.

I’ve spent years learning, and the most powerful insight I have gleaned is what is possible if you think about the system required to deliver the new product — not just the individual siloed process, but the way processes work together to deliver a manufactured new product at the speed, quality and cost that is required to win in the market.

Digital transformation as we've been doing it is not enough. It won't deliver the innovation and operational resilience needed to win in today’s constant change and challenge. Companies that can embrace systems thinking will accelerate value from their digital transformations.

Start with strategy

Be clear on what you’re trying to transform and what level of change you are willing to entertain regarding culture, process and technology.  

Identify leadership who will be active and engaged in the change process

Many failed projects are due to leadership that is passive or “reviewers” and not willing to be visible advocates for the changes required and be involved in resolution of issues.

Be intentional and disciplined about data.

Digital transformation requires digital artifacts (not digital documents). Too many of our processes still rely on documents.  To maximize value companies must be intentional about data strategy and discipline.

Quality data with context and traceability is foundational to successful digital transformations.  When companies are intentional about their data, data model and data discipline, they will better understand their innovation IP and have the body of evidence to leverage it in new and unique ways: Quality questions can be answered in minutes instead of weeks; artwork changes can be done in hours instead of months; and recipes can be executed with confidence on the shop floor the first time. No physical line trials.  

Prioritize the work process threads to transform. Think systems!

Clearly define how value will be delivered and what is required to deliver it. Don’t focus on functional silos that may be easier to implement. Most successful digital transformations require the engagement of multiple disciplines to deliver value.

If we look back on one of our examples, to execute an artwork change in hours instead of months you must connect data from the brand hierarchy to the formulation system to the artwork system to the shop floor.

EMBRACE MODELING of all kinds!

I am most excited about the power of modeling and simulation, AI and machine learning. Technology has advanced in the past years where now advanced modeling capability can be in the hands of all employees in ways that they can leverage models in their daily work — gone are the days when a master in physics is required to scale the use of modeling. Some of the things that companies are doing with modeling today include:

  • Design products that they know are manufacturable at key sites and can achieve ‘going’ production rates at start up.
  • Design for quality and sustainability. With traceability of requirements and the ability to virtually optimize product composition, a company can deliver the AND – speed, quality, and all desired benefits and have the body of evidence to prove it.
  • Visibility to operations data and the ability to connect multiple models enables companies to design and validate for a sustainability index on a product – inclusive of materials and carbon impact of manufacturing and distribution. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumer products industry is more open to change than ever before. Now is the time, embrace a digital transformation! By accelerating the transformation of business with modeling  consumer products companies can leverage complexity as a competitive advantage, optimizing business performance while building resilience and agility.

Digital tools enable companies to adapt their production quickly and flexibly to any need. In the future, your model based digital enterprise  can help ensure that you can respond far faster and more efficiently to crisis situations and changing market demands.

The future is bright and the possibilities endless. I encourage you to be disciplined about data, capture the context and traceability of work and embrace modeling.  Virtually design and validate your products, the process of manufacturing, and production environments. You will ask yourself why you didn’t sooner!

Suzanne Kopcha is VP consumer products and retail industry at Siemens Digital Industries Software. She is also a member of the CGT/RIS Executive Council.

This is also published on CGT.