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Meet the Team: How to navigate digitalisation and Industry 4.0 with Ahsan Jawad, ABL Aberdeen

Ahsan Jawad is ABL’s Senior Digitalisation Expert based in Aberdeen. After completing his MBA with a specialisation in strategy and digital innovation, Ahsan is now studying for his doctorate in digitalisation strategy and is dedicated to supporting digital transformation initiatives for both ABL and our clients.

In our latest Meet the Team, Ahsan sheds light on the challenges surrounding digital transformation, as well as advice on how organisations can overcome them…

What brought you to ABL?

I was referred to ABL during my MBA studies, as it was an integral part of my qualification to work on a consultancy project with an industry partner. For this project I came up with a proposal around strategic decommissioning and how digitalisation could be integrated to achieve cost certainty and maximum economic recovery, before joining the ABL team as a research associate. 

I was offered a scholarship from ABL to study for my Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) while working in the company. During this time I was able to develop various Industry 4.0 conceptual models, as well as Industry 4.0 readiness and digital maturity assessment models.

What does a typical day look like for you at ABL?

My current role as a Senior Digitalisation Expert can be divided into two main elements. Firstly, I work with the learning delivery lead to develop employee training products for various clients, ABL’s new products and diversification initiatives, as well as researching emerging trends within Industry 4.0, sustainability, and net zero initiatives.

From a business development perspective, I work on the implementation of digital transformation projects – including ABL’s sustainability strategy and I engage with existing and potential clients to make them aware of how digitalisation could help them achieve asset optimisation and operational excellence.

I also work closely with the software team on the sale of our AssetVoice™ software, providing technical inputs for preparing proposals and presenting workflows to clients with a special focus on digital asset management and enhanced analytical capabilities.

Why is Industry 4.0 and digital transformation so important right now?

It is now a daunting task to achieve operational excellence, while also having to maintain a balanced equation between cost-risk-productivity. Therefore, industries must resort to more efficient and intelligent ways of operating, which is where Industry 4.0 becomes all the more relevant. Industry 4.0 provides a myriad of solutions using robotics, automations, augmented reality, digital twins, and enhanced data analytical capabilities for enabling organisations to achieve their digital transformation goals.

It’s also important because customers are becoming far more engaged now. Whenever you buy something, you cross a number of different options or platforms to find which one is the best for your specific problem. Digital maturity can help organisations create solutions by having a value proposition which is customer centric. We’re living in an age where you have to educate your customers and show them why your solution is the best one for them by co-creating value.

What are the key challenges facing digital transformation at the moment?

There are numerous real life cases where digital technology has helped organisations achieve operational excellence and efficiency. However, there are certain transitional and transformational challenges that organisations are currently facing…

What we see a lot when it comes to helping our clients transform digitally, is a misunderstanding of where currently stand in terms of Industry 4.0 readiness or digital maturity.

Furthermore, a significant lack of complete, relevant, and accurate data in their systems creates data veracity and provenance issues, resulting in a data trust gap. Even large scale operators could be tracking assets, for example, and don’t know where a required piece of equipment is or if they have it in their inventory at all.

If you have spreadsheets or paper-based data gathering, can you really be sure that this data is accurate, complete, reliable, or timely? That can delay decision making for months if you need specific information about a vital, operation critical piece of equipment, but you can’t find it. You need a digital archive of everything to eliminate the data trust gap.

One of the most significant transitional challenges is the lack of a coherent digital strategy – if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Industry 4.0 is a strategic initiative and digital transformation cannot be achieved in spare time. As service and solution providers, you cannot create a solution and then try to find a problem for it to solve. Digital strategy is vital to make sense of digital technology and how it can be used.

Technology is an enabler but it takes far more than just technology to transform digitally – it’s much more about people and processes. Furthermore, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to digitalisation, you can’t throw technology at everything and expect results to come just because it’s on trend or someone else is doing it.

According to an industry report, approximately $1.3 trillion were spent on digitisation efforts recently, while a staggering $990 billion of that went to waste. This is not because of a lack of technology, but instead a lack of strategy and digital maturity. You need to have that strategy and don’t rush into it – it must be a leap of faith rather than a leap into the dark.

Another significant challenge is the lack of digital literacy within organisations, which coincides with the lack of a digital strategy.

Organisations might miss out on working on developing and rolling out a great innovative solution which could be the next big thing if you can’t secure a buy-in you need to make it happen.

On the flip side, the leadership might wish to work on developing or implementing an innovative solution but if the employees who have to actually use this new technology lack digital literacy it isn’t going to work.

You have to educate people within the organisation because, again, transformation includes people and processes, as well as digital technology. Digital literacy should be instilled across the board, otherwise your digital transformation initiatives would eventually be fruitless.

How can ABL help to overcome these challenges?

At ABL, we can provide training in the digitalisation domain. We’ve developed an Industry 4.0 digital readiness and maturity assessment tool that could help our clients assess their current digital maturity, envision the future, and follow a step by step approach toward achieving the digital transformation goals.

Another way we can help is through our software that digitises datasets and digitalizes the processes, such as AssetVoice™EffioTMePAVTM. For example, AssetVoice™ combines features from asset management, change management, and real-time location systems into one integrated solution to make your assets self-aware. This provides users with greater visibility and traceability, as well as a digital archive of the entire lifecycle of your asset, from procurement to decommissioning.

When it comes to digital strategy, we can take on a consultancy or advisory role and provide organisations with bespoke solutions which fit their needs, relieve them of their pains, and create gains. There aren’t a lot of digital transformation experts out there, so part of our work is educating customers and helping them to co-create a digital strategy that actually fits the company’s overall vision and corporate strategy.

What would be your number one piece of advice to an organisation looking to overcome the challenges around digital transformation?

View digital transformation as something that is friendly – don’t think of it as something that is to be feared, or that it will limit jobs. The rise of digital technologies would only promote people to a higher level of employment.

When you look at transport, for example, we used to have chariot riders and horse riders, then a number of car drivers, then pilots, then astronauts. Employment didn’t go down, it simply promoted people to a higher level of jobs. So, understand what Industry 4.0 is, try to educate yourself and your organisation and see how you can incorporate digitalisation within your strategy.