Let’s get going: Embracing digital transformation in 2019

Wednesday February 6, 2019 0 comments Tags: Dr. Isabel Yang, Advanced Energy

By Isabel Yang

Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Advanced Energy

In order to better serve the evolving needs of customers and keep pace with the competition, it’s time for organizations to embrace digital transformation.  What does this really mean for a critical components company that is part of a large ecosystem such as manufacturing?  AE is a critical components company, and we need to constantly innovate to deliver ever more value to our customers.yang-mug.fixed

Where To Begin?

Industry 4.0 is a term spoken of often when discussing digital transformation. But what does it mean exactly, and how does it apply to manufacturing of products and services and “factories of the future?” The best explanation I have found is that of the intersection of Industrial IoT and Cyber Physical Systems.

As a part of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), subcomponents should be interconnected as sub-systems in the system-of-systems factory, where self-diagnosis and troubleshooting capabilities detect and  predict failures and thus enabling preventive maintenance – and, hence facilitating continuous operation.

Furthermore, in a factory of the future, not only are the system-of-systems fully interconnected, but they are centrally managed and operationally represented by virtual “digital twins,” hence the Cyber Physical Systems. Sub-system of components would naturally be part of this CPS. What this means is that sub-system of components must be designed to be compliant with communication protocols that will enable intra (a company’s own components) and inter (another company’s components) connectivity.

Some industries, for example semiconductor manufacturing, already have done a lot to optimize their factories; some have data and artificial intelligence scientists in-house that are machine learning experts. For these industries, the data from the tools that partners provide can help make factories even smarter. Other industries such as industrial glass coatings, can help drive digital transformation due to the tremendous value provided with connected subsystems and data driven insights. 

In a nutshell, products must be able to communicate with multiple interfaces, be smart themselves, and operate as a system. Finally, you need to practice what you preach and digitally transform the internal business processes, work smarter.

Connecting the Value Chain

The increasing efficiency in the supply chain is another goal for customers. We share in that goal. Not only should this be the customer’s goal, but the company's as well. It is important to focus on this because the value of digital transformation can be first realized in improved supply chain logistics.

Blockchain will be the next technology disruption impacting multiple industries with retail supply chain logistics leading the way. Blockchain is a trusted and distributed ledger system where permissioned access enables validation and traceability of data in the value chain. 

Two forms of trust are at play here. First, there’s the trust that’s essential for companies to work with their partners, who have always been reluctant to share information for fear of exposing their intellectual property and trade secrets. Interconnected systems among stakeholders in the value chain almost by default enables that data to be seen by all of them. Blockchain security provides unprecedented insights into any data breeches. Identifying issues and blocking IP leakage is made easier.  

The second form of trust is in the data itself. Machine performance data gathered through interconnected systems and validated by a shared ledger can be trusted by everyone in the value chain. When a component is underperforming, the company should diagnose the issue, troubleshoot and repair remotely, or alert supply chain partners that the component will need to be taken out of service, returned for repair and replaced. Electronic contracts are executed instantly accelerating that process by orders of magnitude compared with current processes.  

Where to start?

In a way, it’s easier to evolve technology than company culture. It’s often difficult for people to change the process that they have been using for years. How do we start? The first step is to recognize that big technology shifts are happening in the world, and not be afraid to admit that we need to transform how we innovate so we won’t be left behind. 

About the author

Dr. Isabel Yang is a seasoned executive with IBM for the past 19 years. Her career path has traversed multiple business leadership roles within one of the largest global enterprises. Most recently she has served as VP of Strategy and Operations for IBM Research comprised of 12 global labs focused on driving leading edge innovations in areas such as AI, Healthcare solutions, and high performance computing. As Vof IBM Corporate Strategy, she focused on transformation of legacy business lines and building strategies for entry into new industry verticals. Prior to her strategy role, Yang spent several years in IBM’s Technology and Intellectual Property Licensing where she formulated strategy and execution for IP asset mining and licensing across broad technology areas including software, IT services, consumer electronics, computers and networking, semiconductors, electronic materials and healthcare and life sciences.

Yang’s early years in IBM were spent in the Semiconductor Research and Development Center as part of the Microelectronics division. She managed two international technology alliances (AMD, Sony, Toshiba, IBM) and then (Infineon, Samsung, IBM, Charter). Dr. Yang was responsible for driving strategic development and alignment of semiconductor roadmap for the alliances, and pathways for transfer to manufacturing. Prior to joining IBM, Yang worked for Motorola as a R&D engineer responsible for the design and integration of CMOS technologies for high performance computing.

Yang completed all of her higher education at MIT;  B.S in Material Science, M.S and Ph.D in Electrical Engineering specializing in solid state physics and semiconductors. She has 3 patents, over 40 technical publications, and was the recipient of the Paul Rappaport Best Paper award at IEDM for her work on SOI on active substrate. She’s a strong believer in empowering girls to embrace careers in STEM.