Survive and thrive with digitalisation

Tariq Bakeer croppedDigitalisation is a matter of survival, says Tariq Bakeer, regional managing director, Endress+Hauser Middle East 

I come from a telecommunications industry background where the word digital has long been the industry standard; computer network protocols such as Ethernet and Wireless LAN as well as mobile networks standards such as GSM, GPRS and UMTS were all based on digital communication. It has been more than 20 years since digital was already at the core of the telecommunications industry. 

The automation industry on the other hand was more conservative in adopting digital communication and all the benefits that come with it. Throughout my journey in this industry over the past 15 years, I have seen the introduction of many digital standards such as FF, PROFIBUS and WirelessHART to integrate the field transmitters with control/monitoring systems. In my point of view, this had very limited success in terms of industry acceptance as well as the applications in use. Even the HART digital protocol, which came as a standard protocol in the field transmitters, was mainly used to configure and commission a device rather than to make higher value information-based decisions. Analogue stayed at the core of the automation industry. 

I am very proud to be working for a company which is well ahead of its time in terms of understanding the power of digitalisation and digital transformation and further utilising it as a differentiator in the industry in specific applications to create higher value for our customers. For instance, for more than 10 years, we have addressed topics such as conditional monitoring as means of preventive maintenance for higher plant availability; digital sensors (Memosens technology) in liquid analysis which disrupted the traditional analogue sensors and drastically improved the way we maintain them; and HART communication on top of the tank as means of safety in tank gauging applications, among many other innovations. Endress+Hauser has constantly built the architecture and foundation for digital transformation.

In the last few years, the words digitalisation and digital transformation have gained momentum, and now it’s stronger than ever! They came along with many terminologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, M2M, Big Data and many others. All of us started talking about this, each one probably referring to something different depending on our backgrounds and understanding. It felt that all industries were merging together, and what was not relevant some years back, became highly relevant. This was, and probably still is, an overwhelming topic and experience.   

The way I define digitalisation today goes way beyond the basic connectivity and the communication which has already existed for many years. I would define it based on the added value it brings and the ways it has drastically and positively changed:

1. The way we interact with one another: whether with a customer, a partner or a colleague, digital transformation makes us more efficient, more collaborative and certainly more available. COVID-19 taught us a lesson on how important this value is. 

2. The way we make decisions: whether this is to optimise a process, proactively predict and prevent or a go/no go for an investment, digitalisation allows us to better utilise the data and make more intelligent, informed and even faster decisions.

Consequently, I categorise the digitalisation topic as a survival topic, for individuals as well as for businesses alike. It is a long-term game. Adopting, adapting and managing digital transformation will decide which businesses survive and thrive and which do not. 



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