Agility. Speed. Velocity. Hustle. Time to Market. There are so many ways to say it – but none that truly expresses the remarkable value that comes from it. Agility brings sustainable advantage, and when it’s built on a foundation of digital technology, it creates a landscape that can’t soon be duplicated.
Building the type of foundation we're talking about requires a journey – a digital transformation. Heightened customer expectations, new digital realities, more disruptive competitors and new models and ecosystems are upon us. To those of us in manufacturing, and here at Jabil specifically, this means investing in our digital back and front-end infrastructure to enable faster and more data-driven decision support, driving advancement in our digital manufacturing capabilities to ensure long-term market leadership; and it means transforming and building on our go-to-market models in order to succeed.
Advanced digital manufacturing is the modern approach to manufacturing based around an ecosystem of technologies such as 3D printing, the cloud, virtualization, machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is the transformation of analog product lifecycles to become digital data-houses that increase efficiency, effectiveness and yes, agility.
Let's take the simple computer as a case in point. Forty years ago, no one dreamed of owning one, and now, 40 years later, two-thirds of Americans have at least one, according to the Pew Report. What about that little "computer" you carry around in your pocket? Ninety-five percent of Americans owned some variation of a smart phone in January 2017 and that number is slated to hit 63 percent worldwide in 2018.
Why the rapid-fire evolution and full-scale adoption? The first computers were designed on paper and assembled by hand. Humans played a critical role in their development, but their evolution has been a whole different story. Today, computer workstations drive most of the design effort, with the computers themselves processing details of next generation design. And, as factories become more automated, computers can be mass produced with blazing speed.
Speed and innovation have brought efficiency and cost savings to the computer and smartphone space. What used to cost millions of dollars now costs hundreds and processing speeds are light years faster than ever before. Computer technology is a powerful metaphor for today’s digital transformation. Forty years ago, innovation, data, technology and intelligence created an unprecedented model and that model has been evolving with gathering speed ever since.
Simply said, there is no other choice. A digital transformation means future relevance. Companies that want to sustain their competitive edge well into the future (or those that simply want to still exist two years from now) need to act now.
We can point to many examples of companies driving notable digital transformation. But, there are still too many lagging behind. I believe digital transformation is a critical point of discussion in any board room.
In Jabil's 2018 Digital Transformation Survey, respondents indicated that the digital transformation is commanding executive visibility. In fact, we have seen a 62 percent increase in board-level visibility in the practice. However, 46 percent of respondents indicate they haven't made much progress toward starting their digital transformation journey.
We believe that the reason many companies are lagging is because they want to understand the whole process completely from start to finish and utilize a first-follower mentality. The current business landscape, however, doesn't allow for "first-followers." Business is moving incredibly fast; nobody is waiting. Companies that can't drive leap innovation for their customer and can't be truly creative in their offerings, soon won't have a seat at the table. "First followers" will soon be known as "first failures."
That is why your digital transformation journey must begin now. Being digital requires an agile mindset. Therefore it is important to recognize that the journey is not a 90-day process; it is an involved, ongoing expedition that requires organizational and cultural changes along the way. My advice to you is to take the first step, to be open and adjust on the way.
It’s no wonder then that as Jabil ponders its own digital future, both agility and technology play starring roles. We have long understood the critical role of the digital thread in manufacturing. It drives the vital connections between our business, operations, factories, suppliers, partners and customers. This digital thread calls for disruptive innovation achieved through new ways to work and speed-to-market driven by unprecedented agility.
Customer relationships have evolved significantly in the last decade. Customers used to approach Jabil with a blueprint, asking us to build the product to specifications. Today, they come to us with an idea—one that requires every phase of the journey to integrate agility—which we help make a reality. Our digital thread is transforming how we design, make and deliver products and services to Jabil and our customers.
The importance of a strong digital foundation can't be emphasized enough – the whole journey relies on it. This foundation will allow your organization to drive a broad set of outcomes through:
Digital value will be achieved in support of mega-trends that drive evolution with speed – from the digitization of everything to data-trapped intelligence and devicification – just to name a few. And it will manifest through value solutions offered in fast-moving categories from Smart Packaging and Connected Health to Additive Manufacturing. At least that's how we are approaching our transformation at Jabil.
Leadership plays in AR/VR and Human Machine Interface will drive game-changing advancements in digital. And the data thread and connectivity will work together to drive velocity and efficiency from the beginning of the product lifecycle to the end - cutting time-to-market in half, at a fraction of the cost.
A unified digital platform can spin any company off an analog axis to a digital interface that aligns powerful insights from deep and wide analytics and help envision new business models. Through this far-reaching digital thread, you can monetize critical data, promote innovation through a combined services model and do it all with the network as a multiplier that also speeds time-to-market at a dizzying pace. That's Jabil at the speed of digital.