The value chain - opportunities and obstacles for innovation

Chronicle · Petra Edoff, chairman of the Automation Region's research and development group · 2020-10-30

During the pandemic, we have seen great flexibility in production. Industrial companies have switched focus to be able to produce protective equipment when the usual products are not in demand or deliveries fail. In the same way that during the holidays we are more flexible in taking on tasks and responsibilities that we otherwise shy away from or do not feel qualified for, we can during a crisis raise our gaze and adjust - not just because we have to, but because we want to.

We want to contribute, to feel that we have some kind of control over a situation that is otherwise frightening and difficult to handle. A conversion of production to completely new products or lending of staff can provide the necessary income, buy time and at the same time contribute to a sense of meaning.

This flexibility in what we do, how we do it, and who does what is central to innovation and development. But if we look at something that has been on the industry's agenda in recent years - technology development and digitalization - what does it look like?

At RISE, we are often involved as development partners when industrial companies investigate how the latest research in, for example, AI and VR can be applied in a specific industrial context. The big challenge often comes when a successful pilot is to be implemented in full scale and become an integral part of the business. Suddenly, existing organizational structures, routines, contracts, hierarchies and information structures stand in the way of digitalization. The organization may have implemented a successful pilot of an AI solution - created new value from all the data collected - and then it suddenly stops. Despite curiosity and will, there are many things that stand in the way and that we get stuck on. Why?

Maybe because people who have previously owned important information in their professional roles become, or feel, superfluous. Perhaps because a new way of working requires a different type of collaboration with suppliers, such as switching from reactive to predictive maintenance. Perhaps because in comparison with a pilot project, a full-scale implementation requires a great deal of commitment to integration and updating systems - changes that need to be prepared in many different forums and that can have legal consequences.

No matter where the process gets stuck, I think many of us realize that digitization is not always easy. Together, we must identify the mechanisms that enable us to reach all the way and create value.

Within Automation Region's research and innovation group, we have chosen to dig deeper into the issues surrounding the integration and implementation of digital technology in order to be able to help companies reach their long term digitalization projects. If you also have had thoughts and reflections about these questions, we are interested in knowing more. Feel free to contact me or Helena Blackbright and we will take the discussion further!

Petra Edoff
Head of unit and responsible for internal digitization at RISE, chairman of the Automation Region's research and development group