Gartner’s Digital Transformation Mistakes – an AM Perspective


Aya Bentur  

Lamellar heat exchanger 3D printed by 3D Systems, part count reduction 40 to 1 exhibited at Formnext 2019

A couple of months ago Gartner published an article based on a session conducted by Mark Raskino at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ in Barcelona, Spain. The session was titled “Nine Corporate Digital Business Transformation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” outlined where corporations tend to go wrong when attempting to undergo digital transformation. Digital transformation is quite a large umbrella term, and each field and industry comes with its own challenges, here is a look at some of these points from the additive manufacturing (AM) perspective.

Misreading the Scope of Digital Change

Gartner claims that one of the risks of digital transformation is focusing efforts and resources in the wrong place. A successful digital transformation relies on the company understanding the current state of the industry it is part of. According to Raskino, “not having a strong understanding of what is going on in your industry can lead to a superficial or narrow scope of change for any digital transformation. Organizations should think in terms of using digital to reinvent what their industry does”, he says. Additive manufacturing enables innovation in several parts of the organization, not just manufacturing. Therefore, in this case, a company choosing to integrate AM doesn’t need to reinvent what their industry does. It’s not necessarily about reinventing all aspects at once but creating specific transformations in specific aspects – that the company chooses to address. It can be in newly designed parts (design for additive can go beyond just weight reduction or consolidating parts) or new business models and services such as supplying emergency spare parts (as an additional service to the traditionally manufactured spare parts).

EDAG Additively Manufactured Lightweight Hood Hinge
Additively manufactured lightweight hood hinge by EDAG

Look Outward, Not Inward

Raskino differentiates between operational models and business models: “An operating model focus does not consider the overall market. It focuses primarily on efficiency and effectiveness. A business model focus considers the market and how it is monetized. An outside-in perspective is what most successful digital transformation projects hinge on”. AM can help with avoiding this mistake. Additive manufacturing enables manufacturing closer to demand, this provides better data for an outside-in perspective.

It’s Not my Job

Who’s responsible for digital transformation? Who is the initiator of the process? Gartner claims it’s not just an IT issue but a managerial issue that should be raised at the CXO level. When it isn’t, Rakino states that “this cascading disassociation behavior prevents real change”. In some cases going additive is a crucial, strategic decision that should be discussed at he highest levels. One example is the US army, where a new AM policy is currently implemented. When the policy originates at the top, it creates a positive cascading emphasis. Each supplier working with the US army needs to adapt, to follow the lead and provide their AM solutions according to the needs and policies dictated.

3D Printed Barracks US Army
3D Printed Barracks US Army

Digital is Undefined – Define your Goals

As mentioned up top, digital transformation is an umbrella term, it can be implemented in different aspects of the company. It’s easy to go with projects that sound cool but the better you define the goals of the transformation the better the results will be. As Raskino points out, “organizations must do the upfront hard work to define their goals, set specific targets and metrics, and then measure those to ensure the transformation project is on track”.
This is in line with successful AM integration. An additively manufactured part has certain advantages such as improving the part performance and economics but the goals can be more defined and elaborate. In production time is money – defining the goal as opening up another revenue stream, for example, could leverage the AM production process into allowing the company to supply rush parts at a higher price tag.

Clariant Rail Parts Formnext 2019-
Clariant rail parts exhibited at Formnext 2019


When digital transformation is not implemented well, “initiatives may only be focused on improving today and not putting the funding, systems and specific plans in place to do the real transformation,” says Raskino. This is true for AM as well. Taking an existing part and changing its manufacturing to AM is an incremental change. Adopting AM and encouraging the organization to put AM as a standard method to be used in production (as in the HP on HP project) is a real transformation.

Fixed minds vs Learning Mode

Learning mode and keeping an open mind is important in any innovative culture. The AM ecosystem has been evolving for over 30 years now, including a major shift from prototypes to functional parts, to small series production. That is the sign of an ecosystem that is constantly in learning mode. As Pete Basiliere (former VP Analyst at Gartner and now Managing Director at Monadnock Insights) pointed out after Formnext 2019: “Formnext attendees looking only for familiar vendors wasted their time. Formnext was not just evolutionary improvements but – more importantly – it also featured revolutionary 3D printing advances”. Another evident aspect in events such as Formnext is the willingness of ecosystem players to share knowledge, to learn from each other’s pain points and needs in order to create holistic solutions that span across the entire operation.

copper part made with Supersonic 3D Deposition exhibited at Formnext 2019
copper part made with Supersonic 3D Deposition exhibited at Formnext 2019

Overplanning vs Agility

Raskino encourages companies to be agile, “organizations should institutionalize lean startup thinking at every level,” he states. AM is inherently an iterative process because of the faster time-to-product it provides. This makes any process involving AM more agile. As additive manufacturing is most advanced in large corporations with established policies and procedures in the supply chain, manufacturing, and other areas, any changes across the organization need smart planning hand in hand with agility. Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive? Especially for effective adoption in large corporations.

Rear-view mirror housing made from BASF Ultrasint PA6 X043 with Farsoon
Rear-view mirror housing made from BASF Ultrasint PA6 X043 with Farsoon

Integrating additive manufacturing (AM) in a company production process falls under digital transformation, yet as it relates to physical items and physical operations, the challenges might differ from processes that are entirely digital. Raskino talks about 3 levels of operation which are needed for a successful digital transformation – corporate governance, management, and execution – it seems that here it applies equally to AM production.

What do you think are the mistakes that should be avoided in integrating AM in a digital manufacturing transformation process? Tell us about them in the comments below or email us. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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