How digital is my company?


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How digital is my company?

Digital transformation is improving production and making entirely new business models possible. However, before implementation begins, it makes sense to determine the degree of maturity, advises Paul Thieme from the DigiTools for Manufacturing department at Fraunhofer IPA.

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“Have we made the right decisions and are we on a good path to Digital Transformation?” – it is safe to assume that these are the kind of questions that many decision-makers ask themselves. Especially now, when the environment is becoming increasingly volatile.

For many years, Fraunhofer IPA has been supporting companies in their digital transformation. There are several approaches and processes for introduction and implementation. The new digital business models promote increased customer acquisition rates. Condition monitoring can improve production and agile supply chain management can significantly reduce response times to delivery changes. Implementation can take place from the top down or bottom up. With this multitude of possibilities, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture, making it difficult to decide.

Planning methods for Digital Transformation

Are you planning a fundamental Digital Transformation of your company? Do you want to determine the digital maturity level of your company or evaluate, select and coordinate digitalization projects? Fraunhofer IPA carries out Industrie 4.0 planning projects and supports the implementation of the Digital Transformation in manufacturing companies.

Learn more: Planning methods for Digital Transformation

Which investments in digital transformation are the most promising? This is another frequently asked question. In order to give a well-founded answer, it is advisable to first determine the current status. Auf welcher Reifegradstufe befindet sich das Unternehmen gerade? It is only by knowing where you are now that you are able to work towards reaching your goal.

Models for determining the maturity level

There are several models for determining the maturity level, each with various advantages and disadvantages. The best known is certainly the VDMA toolbox from the Industrie 4.0 handbook. It divides the digital maturity of products and production into five levels and also describes them clearly. By means of examples, users can classify for themselves which level of maturity has already been reached. In addition, there are various readiness checks for SME competence centres and other providers. Usually, these checks include general questions without comparative examples. As a rule, all areas of the company are surveyed – and in this way, indirect areas are also covered.

Assessing the maturity level in one day

Fraunhofer IPA has compiled a comprehensive evaluation catalog based on a selection of existing maturity models and its own project experience. This catalogue covers the processes in the entire company and presents five maturity levels, with illustrative examples for each area of the survey. The catalogue includes a total of 70 questions relating to the different corporate areas, i.e. organization, production processes, products and services, IT and supply chain management. The various fields of action are grouped into sub-fields of the operation and these are examined in greater detail. This sounds complicated and elaborate, but it is’nt. All previous projects have been completed within one day.

What kind of company would benefit from a maturity assessment?

From an entrepreneurial point of view, it would be hugely beneficial to make time one day to have experts carry out a maturity assessment. Ideally, the assessment is carried out at the beginning of the digital transformation. However, most companies have already passed this milestone. Nevertheless, a maturity assessment would still be of use. The results can be used to document the current project status and verify the existing roadmap. All companies that are already undergoing a digital transformation and do not have a roadmap should definitely carry out a maturity assessment.

Determining the current digital maturity status

At the beginning of the assessment, the experts from Fraunhofer IPA will go through the company to gain an insight into the production processes as well as the organization of the individual areas of operation. The maturity assessment is then carried out in the form of a workshop, which is moderated by Fraunhofer IPA. The decisive factor is who takes part in the workshop. A representative cross-section from all areas of the company would be ideal. This way, all the questions put by the Fraunhofer Readiness Check can be answered at the same evaluation level. The workshop result represents the actual digital maturity level of the company.

Prioritise company areas with the greatest potential for improvement

Based on the transparent presentation of current status, priorities should be set first as to which areas of the company offer the greatest potential for improvement. It may not always be necessary to implement digital solutions. Often, it is enough to reorganize processes more efficiently or to introduce simple lean or quality management principles. These improvements are frequently the preliminary stage for a later digital solution. The appeal of the Fraunhofer Readiness Check lies in the fact that it can uncover potential, so that improvements can be developed together with the company using the examples from the catalogue. The solutions are described as “use cases” and documented indicating clear responsibilities and deadlines.

Key metrics for use cases to highlight changes

Priority should also be given to assigning one or more metrics to the use cases to monitor change over time. If there is not yet a suitable key figure, it must be newly developed. The ultimate goal is the definition of the target status for the selected use case and the creation of a roadmap for the digital transformation of all use cases.

From roadmap to project plan

With the help of the roadmap, the individual use cases are bundled into a binding project plan. It can also show which activities are dependent on the fulfilment of other use cases. Now the decision-makers in the company are able to transparently present all efforts for the Digital Transformation and communicate the project plan and goals within the company. There is also the option of evaluating the progress of the project using the key figures.

Analysis and evaluation of success

The decisive advantage of a comprehensive maturity assessment using this approach is the well-founded analysis of the actual digital maturity of a company. Ideally, this assessment is carried out first, before the start of the digital improvement projects. In this case, the assessment results can be used for the development of a roadmap. In addition, decision-makers receive a basis for investment decisions as well as key figures for evaluating success.

Maturity assessment during digitization projects

A digital maturity assessment based on the Fraunhofer IPA approach can also be applied when the first digitalization projects have already begun. . In this case, the results are used to determine whether the right projects have been initiated and how they are performing. Corrective action can then be taken in the event of any issues arising.

No matter where on the Digital Transformation journey the company is: a Digital Maturity Assessment Day is a worthwhile investment!


Dr.-Ing. Paul Thieme

Employee of the Implementation Methods for Digital Production Group
Phone: +49 711 970-1116