Disrupt or be disrupted: How companies can innovate and do more with digitalization

Like urbanization, digitalization and IoT (the Internet of Things) are megatrends that are affecting us all. The Internet of Things sounds strange, but think about it: those “things” are your personal things (your devices and tools), the things that make your city run better, and the things that your company makes and sells. Things that make us more mobile, and other things that we use every day.

As digitalization moves forward, we’ll have more and more data (Big Data) which can be analyzed via machine learning to make our lives easier through innovations like predictive maintenance. Together, these innovations can revolutionize the way we work, live and move in cities, but companies have to harness the power of technology for the benefit of their business plans, supported by the real-time passion of strong leaders.

Using fewer resources for bigger change – What makes the world go around? Innovative technology. And in mobility, building, energy and manufacturing, especially green innovations are changing how people interact with and shape their environment.

Published on 09.04.2018

Digitalization and Urbanization: Two converging trends.

Around the world, 3 million people move to cities each week. The urbanization megatrend has created a situation where we are constructing an urban area equal to the size of Manhattan every single day. But most cities are already crowded, which means we need to build higher and we need to build smarter.

Digitalization is changing our way of life, work and how we communicate with customers, colleagues and family. But it also promises to make life more convenient, and to solve many of the challenges posed by urbanization.


The imperative for companies

Companies must utilize these two trends as mutually beneficial forces of innovation. Their success will have a direct impact on quality of life both in and around our cities. The cost of inaction is far too great: companies that don’t think ahead will be left behind.

Like inaction, “under-action” is also a huge mistake that many companies are currently making. They are focusing on “adapting” to digitalization when they should be actively turning it to their advantage and to the advantage of their customers.

Rather than delivering the same, traditional solutions with minor digital enhancements, companies need to explore completely new opportunities with Big Data, the Internet of Things and machine learning. And it’s the well-educated, dense populations of cities that offer the ideal testing grounds for many such solutions.

How digitalization benefits people in cities

As the ideal testing grounds for digitalization projects, urban centers will be among the first places to benefit from things like predictive maintenance, or the real-time adaptation of systems (e.g. traffic signals, air filtration) to the current conditions (e.g. traffic jams, poor air quality).                                              

When pending component failures can be fixed before they occur, everything runs more smoothly and works better: public transport, elevators, public utilities, flows of automobile traffic, all kinds of electronic equipment and appliances, etc.

Solutions like these mean fewer disruptions to your day: fewer traffic jams and train delays, less downtime of elevators and escalators, and no more burnt-out street lamps.

More rewarding work life, more satisfied customers

Apart from making it easier to move around cities, digitalization can also help make our jobs more rewarding and improve customer satisfaction. Elevator technicians, for example, can benefit from instant access to an automated list of probable causes of an active (or pending) error. This relieves a lot of stress when working with an unfamiliar system.

Customers benefit from getting their equipment serviced before they know a problem exists or before one even occurs. Some customers will also benefit from a new source of data which they can use for their own purposes

Thriving, not surviving: What companies must do

Put simply: companies must act, not react. Surviving digitalization is not enough – thriving should be the goal. It’s important to drive the change rather than to play follow-the-leader. Companies have to discover ways of making everyone’s lives (consumers, customers & employees) better by making a positive contribution through digitalization. Do that, and success is virtually guaranteed.

For example, what does a reader gain when a book is digitized? Not much. They only benefit if the digital medium is fully exploited with connectivity to dictionaries, reference works and other readers, or even vocabulary learning support. This makes difficult books easier to read, makes learning more engaging and contributes to the education level of society in general.

Use a business plan

It’s important for companies to let their workforce know what they want to change and why. If you can’t convince your own people, you’ll never be able to convince your customers of your new solutions, let alone deliver them.

It is important to develop a business plan that focuses on small steps on the road to success. Digital transformation involves more than changing “how” you do things; it is a cultural shift that will affect almost everyone who works for a company. 

Apart from the nuts and bolts of technical implementation, the business plan must also include an internal and external communications plan. Employees need to understand that digitalization is all about human-machine collaboration – not human-machine competition. External communications, on the other hand, will help highlight your hero projects, which also benefits your standard “bread-and-butter” products.

Connect your products and act on the data

A lot of attention is given to connecting technical equipment and devices to the cloud. But that doesn’t do you any good if you’re not analyzing the data.

It is not necessary for companies to wait until all their machines are connected. It’s true that the data becomes more reliable as more machines are connected, but it is still possible to derive many benefits from your growing body of data as you build up your own “Intranet of Things”.

In fact, it is vital to start showing what equipment/cloud connectivity can do while you’re in the midst of the implementation process. Seeing some interim results not only helps employee motivation, it helps justify the burden of a high-budget project by delivering some quick wins along the way.

“It’s not just about connecting units; it’s about leveraging the data. It’s important to get the end-to-end processes right.”

Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO, thyssenkrupp Elevator

Start the process and don’t delegate

Digitalization is a major shift for businesses, and it must be managed from the top level. Delegating the entire digital transformation process to the IT department will not work, because it is a major change that requires strong leadership and strategic focus. If a company’s CEO or top level management does not have the necessary expertise, it will be necessary to bring in an expert.

But don’t be discouraged! Just getting started is the first and most difficult hurdle. Once you get the ball rolling, you will acquire the knowledge, resources and partners you need as you move along.

Digitalization promises to make our lives better and deliver countless benefits, but those benefits require innovation from the private sector. Disrupt or be disrupted. The choice is yours!

“When it comes to digitalization, we are better positioned if we are on the leading edge than if we are trying to catch up.”

Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO, thyssenkrupp Elevator


MAX is an IoT solution that will empower elevator technicians to fix elevators before they break.