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The number of new technologies developed for the last decade is amazing. Video, mobile, communication, self-driving cars… what else? The video of recent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landing on a drone ship at sea made me think about sci-fi books of Ayzek Azimov back in my school time. Product development technologies are making huge progress and I’m amazed about what manufacturing can do these days. Software vendors and analysts are talking about digital transformation that will transform enterprise and manufacturing.
You might think, full digital transformation is just around the corner? The reality is not as pretty as we think. Technologies are easy thing to handle. To make transformation in people’s mind. So, do you know how manufacturing process is done for SpaceX rocket? How ordering process for parts is going?
Engineers are very conservative when it comes to their own tools. It made me think about fax machines.This piece of technology with paper interface and ugly sound refuses to die and still used by many businesses. BBC article is giving us a brief walk trough the story of invention and development of fax machine businesses.
The clunky fax machine has been around for longer than you might think. And it’ll be a while yet before it disappears, as Chris Baraniuk discovers. The main reason – fax machines is actually the first form of digital transformation. Here is the passage from BBC article
The passion of Bain, Caselli and others has long faded, then. But we shouldn’t just remember faxing as a long, drawn-out curiosity, bettered by competing technologies and never quite as slick as its proponents claimed it could be. All of those statements are fair, but faxing achieved more than all that. It introduced the world to a very contemporary concept: instant, sophisticated communication. And that’s what defines our modern era of the web, of course.
“In reality faxing was actually furthering digitisation by getting people used to the idea of getting information and images at a distance, the idea of instant communication,” says Coopersmith.
My attention was caught by a new study: 70% of Executives have started Digital Supply Chain Transformation. Recent supply chain digital transformation study done by Infor is confirming the fact despite companies are striving towards future technological transformation. The reality is that many of them are still running fax machines and other traditional technologies to manage supply chain and communication between companies. Navigate to the following link to learn more. Here is my favorite passage:
Key technology enablers have been identified, but are not widely used yet. Supply Chain Visibility Platforms/Tools (94%), Big Data Analytics (90%), Simulation Tools (81%) and Cloud (80%) are seen as the biggest technology enablers of Digital Supply Chain Transformation. But 48% of respondents admit that right now “traditional” methods such as phone, fax, email are still the dominant ways to interact with supply chain partners.
Which made me think about organizational status quo. It is hard to change the way business is operating. Businesses are conservative to change and engineers often like to follow existing patterns and rules. Optimization and digital transformation are cool and flashy trends, but the reality is when business need to make an order of parts, supply chain manager is pulling Excel spreadsheet with list of parts from shop-floor and place orders using fax machines.
What is my conclusion? Fax machines is a first step in digital transformation started many years ago. New tools and technologies won’t replace it easily without rethinking of core fundamental principles how digital fax business is operating. New benefits should be provided for businesses. If everything new mobile app or digital tech does is replacing paper with touch screen, I’m afraid sales people will be disappointed. Faxes are already digital. The future transformation needs more thinking about solving problems of communication and optimization of manufacturing planning, supply chain and other processes. Just my thoughts…