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DX based on business goals and "three points" will allow SMEs to make further leaps forwardMikio Aoyama

<Series 4 (Total 4 series)>


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This has been a series of interviews with Mr. Mikio Aoyama, a leading figure in digital transformation (DX) research. In this final article, we talked about key points that companies working on DX should keep in mind and a message mainly for manufacturing SMEs.

Promoting DX initiatives based on your business goals

"The essence of DX is 'business transformation' driven by new technologies. Therefore, the major premise of working on DX should be to first clarify your goals for what the business should be like in 5 years. The collection and utilization of technology and data are only partial steps. With the right goals, it becomes clear what data you need to collect and analyze."

When setting business goals, it is also necessary to take a firm look at accelerating changes in society and the market environment, such as the spread of second-hand goods and sharing among consumers, and the shortening of delivery times for industrial products. In this context, Mr. Aoyama emphasized changes in the principle of market mechanisms for businesses.

"Now that the axis of competition is shifting from competition between companies to competition between business ecosystems, a single company will eventually reach its limits in this struggle. Asahi Tekko Co., Ltd. and Sowa Kajuen Co., Ltd. were presented as DX success stories in the previous article. Both have made their efforts public, and Asahi Tekko has established a consulting company to spread the company's expertise. Aside from the lofty ambition of sharing results with other companies, it's also significant for aiming to create a new business ecosystem."

Three key points to keep in mind for achieving DX

So what are the key points to be aware of when proceeding with the actual system implementation? Mr. Aoyama points out that there are three reasons that Asahi Tekko succeeded with DX originating from in-house IoT adoption.

The first key point is to establish a three-pronged framework for managers, business division (on-site), and IT department under the leadership of the company president. If you don't have an IT department in your company, managers and well-trained employees can play that role.

The second key point is to start small. "It's important not to invest a lot from the start. Asahi Tekko first started adopting IoT with a few hundred yen sensor and a few thousand yen basic computer bought in Akihabara."

The third key point is to improve the IT literacy of employees working in offices and factories. Employees who operate robots at the company, in other words automated lines, learned programming and can adapt existing robot programs to suit the actual conditions at the factory.

Turning change into opportunity and strengthening management with DX

It's no wonder that DX is a burden. But as we have already seen, many companies have successfully increased productivity in product manufacturing, developed new markets, increased the added value of products and services, and created new business models through DX.

"I mentioned earlier that the promotion of DX requires the trio of managers, the business division (on-site), and the IT department, but you don't have to do everything in-house. One of the options would be to use external insights and information, such as government agencies and consultants."

Mr. Aoyama finally had the following words of encouragement.

"Manufacturing SMEs have traditionally supported the Japanese economy. If they don't get healthy, Japan on a whole won't be healthy. Some of the various changes may represent a crisis, but crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. I hope that SMEs take full advantage of their unique and exceptional technologies and products, and adaptability to achieve 'disruptive innovation' caused by DX."

Series DX based on business goals and "three points" will allow SMEs to make further leaps forward

Series 1 Why should SMEs work on digital transformation (DX) now?
Series 2 The future of your company depends on achieving digital transformation (DX)
Series 3 How to promote DX in SMEs, learning from in-house IoT adoption success stories
Series 4 DX based on business goals and "three points" will allow SMEs to make further leaps forward

Mikio Aoyama
Professor, Department of Software Engineering, Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering, Nanzan University / Chair of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Study Group for Digital Transformation"

Completed the master's program at the Okayama University Graduate School of Engineering in 1980, then joined Fujitsu Limited. Worked on the development of a distributed processing communication software system. After two years as a visiting researcher at the University of Illinois, USA in 1986, he was became a professor in the Department of Information and Electronics Engineering at Niigata Institute of Technology in 1995, and a professor in the Department of Information and Telecommunication Engineering, Faculty of Mathematical Sciences and Information Engineering at Nanzan University in 2001. PhD (Engineering). He began researching DX in 2005 and assumed his current position in 2009. Chair of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Study Group for Digital Transformation" in 2018

Coverage date December 25, 2019

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