A digital operating system is defined by fundamental characteristics. It gears definitive competitive advantages, and a mature DOS will be a necessity for world-class manufacturers of the near future.

Historically, a visionary approach to manufacturing has always looked to technology. And technology has always delivered to fulfil that quest: machinery, production systemization, automation, robotics – and still better machinery.

Now, bridging the cusp from the Digital Age to the Imagination Age, the Fourth Industrial Revolution – incorporating machine learning – is already delivering further leaps for manufacturing. The vanguard organizations are those which are leading the way in implementing digital operating systems (DOS). In these organizations, digital transformation and the application and utilization of new technologies informs its systems design for improved agility, visibility and efficiency.


A mark of maturity is a change in the outlook of the company’s leadership toward technology. From an understanding of its importance – even a passion to embrace forerunner applications – the emphasis moves to a committed strategy with identified objectives. Goals are reframed not as explorations (“What if technology may help improvement?”) but as deliverables enabled by digital (“We will drive 5% improvement”). The entity is digital by default: Production processes, upstream and downstream systems, and customer interfacing are designed for digital, and a digital mindset is entrenched within the culture of the business.

This is perhaps most visible in the value the organization places on data. Data-centricity is evident in the way the company prioritizes its gathering, dispersal and sharing, real-time analysis incorporating next-generation analytics tools – including predictive applications – and use in decision-making. This is a core characteristic of DOS maturity: data mastery to create smarter manufacturing, clearer and quicker decisions, and end-to-end visibility.

Data is prioritized, too, as a means to measure integrative improvement. Incorporating lean production principles and standardized workflow processes, integrative improvement in turn facilitates the stages of digital progression, from infancy to maturity. Peerless manufacturers use integrative improvement systems and techniques to orchestrate their digital transformations, and then to reap the rewards – and iterate their gains.

Digital by design

Progressive enterprises have long realized the need for, and benefits of, collaboration. Digital systems and technologies not only engender the extension of networks and alliances, but they also extrapolate the potential rewards.

Digitized production systems mesh operations holistically with other parts and processes of the business, from planning to logistics and administration, from new product development to sales and marketing. The effect is to migrate siloed organizational structures towards more integrated internal designs; manufacturers with mature digital operating systems go further in their quest for value creation and competitiveness by nurturing digitally-enabled ecosystems aligning networked suppliers, third-party partners, and customers.

This optimizes efficiencies, leverages further competitive advantage, and enables true agility. The ability to monitor or react, to confirm or to change course, to imbue the organization with adaptability – these attributes are not only heightened by the speed of digital, but also by the networked hyperconnectivity of Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies.

Transformative technology

Indeed, “world-class” implies embracing these breakthrough technologies and platforms. The manufacturing locations adopt full utilization of automation, including state-of-the-art robotics, and have a state of near-complete and comprehensive information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) integration. Beyond the factory floor and core operations, digitally mature companies also employ leading-edge technologies across the spectrum of support and management functions. Neural networks and next-level artificial intelligence, for instance, extract insights and predictive patterns from complex data, contributing to optimized business intelligence and digital innovation.

A further hallmark of a mature DOS is an engaged, inspired and motivated workforce. Achieving digital maturity actually depends upon engineering the digital upskilling of employees, and attuning them to a high-performance culture. The synchronization of talent and technology represents the power and potential of DOS: new and refined capabilities which can inspire human ingenuity and unlock innovation.

New frontiers, new businesses

Thirty years ago, the legendary manufacturing and management consultant Edward Deming, advising on the need for clarity and focus, noted that “A good question for anybody in business to ask is, What business are we in?” The question has resounding relevance for manufacturers today, as every business is required to transition from producing products by process repetition to creating value through digitally-enabled innovation.

“World-class”, “best-in-class”, “powerhouse”, “worldwide leaders”: Ultimately, these are monikers for manufacturers that have seized the initiative in successfully digitizing their operations and value chains. But they have also understood that digital transformation is a catalyst to ask Deming’s question – to reimagine their business models, their very businesses.

Just as importantly, they are curious and restless about the future. They capitalize on their digital capabilities to continuously evolve – their ambitions, their competitiveness, their innovations.

And they keep imagining.

Download the white paper Digital operating systems: The organisational need for guidance to find out more transitioning to DOS with a stage-based, fully customized solution.


CCi is a privately held global company that enables organizations to deliver sustainable results across the value chain through TRACC, a solution for continuous, integrated improvement.