Digital Threads | Usability

Are Digital Threads too Difficult to Control?

Words by Alex Matheson
Are Digital Threads too Difficult to Control?

Is it beyond your average business owner to make full use of the emergent technologies that make digital threads possible? Do you need a level of technological wizardry to capitalise on Industry 4.0 marvels? Are digital threads too difficult for mere mortals to control?

Short answer, no. For the long answer, read on.

Are cutting edge technologies user friendly?

Last week we talked about scalability in your supply chain. We looked at how, with the help of technology, your supply chain could become part of a living, breathing, integrated digital ecosystem. It’s an idea we believe in and one we help facilitate for businesses around the world on a daily basis. However, we understand that the concepts behind these technologies might seem a bit beyond many business owners.

The biggest part of our digital transformation is changing the way we think – Simeon Preston, Bupa

In that article we gave the example of a bakery which grew in popularity and needed to scale it’s supply chain to meet new demand. We advocated for the use of Industry 4.0 technologies to help. Technology built on the power of the cloud and high speed connections provided by 5G networking.

That’s all well and good coming from us, creators of these technologies who live in that cutting edge world. But what if you are that bakery owner? Your bread and butter (if you’ll forgive the pun) isn’t Industry 4.0 technology, it’s something entirely different.

The idea of a digital thread isn’t a difficult one to grasp. A ribbon that connects your physical resources to a digital world throughout their collective lifetimes. It’s easy enough to visualise and the concept is pretty straight forward.

But if your day-to-day business is baking loaves, does the jump into cyberspace make sense, or is it too daunting to approach? Can your ingredient deliveries, ovens, bakers, ordering systems, customer reviews, and pastry icing instructional videos all exist along a single digital thread?

Is it as easy as all that to make the most out of our current industrial revolution? We think it should be and we believe it can be.

How do you make digital threads usable?

Usability is one of those tricky things that’s hard to define and even harder to implement. In fact, the better you do it the less people seem to notice. If an application or software package isn’t user friendly then it’s hard to miss. But when it is, it becomes second nature to use and the idea it might be any other way drifts into the background.

For industries far and wide to make the most out of digital threads, they need platforms to work on that enable access for all skill levels and areas of expertise. We love software developers and our platform wouldn’t be what it is without our fantastic team of digital architects. But, if you want to make the most out of what digital can offer, you need experts from across the board involved.

If your digital solution is only accessible to the kind of people who created it, you’re going to miss out. Any platform designed with Industry 4.0 in mind needs to enable experts from every field to engage in digital transformation.

Going back to our imaginary bakery, if the owner sees growth and recognises they need digital systems then maybe they’ll look to their tech savvy young employee for guidance. This hypothetical employee may be knees deep in the digital world and offer a system with all the bells and whistles a business needs to make incredible things happen.

If it’s a system that only the tech savvy employee can decipher though, it could easily turn into a drain on resources without adding anything to the business. In that case, what does the owner of our imaginary bakery need?

What makes a digital system usable?

For our two pennies, we’d like to put forth a no-code platform. If you’re lucky enough to have a team of dedicated software engineers, then you can conceivably build a digital solution to any business challenge from the ground up. If they’re good enough, that digital solution will have great usability and be accessible to everyone in your organisation.

If you’re the owner of a flourishing bakery however, your digital solutions need that usability and accessibility baked in, pun intended!

No-code platforms are built around that very idea. While they might not be as custom made as a bespoke solution from your skilled team of software developers, they’re designed to provide every expert you have the access to get involved with your digital transformation.

A no-code platform, such as Atlas Play, enables you to create digital solutions that can be integrated throughout your business. Everyone directly involved in each aspect of your organisation can add their own experience to the mix.

In this respect, digital threads become easy to control and make use of. Your supply chain is integrated into a digital environment where it speaks to every other aspect of your business. The processes you map out within a platform like Atlas Play are iterated, improved and executed by the people who know them best.

This is the key to usability. Creating a digital space in which everyone can innovate.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into the usability side of digital threads. We’ll be back next time to discuss sustainability, both in respect to the environment we live in as well as sustainability in your digital systems.

If you want a masterclass in what digital threads mean for business, our own Martin Kelman will be speaking at the European Supply Chain Management Summit on the 8th November. Be sure to book your digital seat today so you don’t miss it!