Popularized by the bestselling book of the same name, written by three McKinsey analysts, “The Titanium Economy” refers to “a group of companies (that) could consistently outperform the market, create millions of high-quality American jobs and lead technological innovation while building a more sustainable future”.
Such companies already exist, say the authors. They are part of what they called “the Titanium Economy”, a cohort of industrial technology companies that are “redefining the future of US manufacturing”.
One company which could be described as being an integral part of the Titanium Economy is TXI, a digital product innovation firm composed of strategists, designers, and engineers. Below is a Q&A with one of those people.
Hello Jason, please introduce yourself and your role.
I’m Jason Hehman, a Client Partner at TXI and the Vertical Lead for Industrial Innovation and Industry 4.0 at TXI. With the support of an immensely talented internal team, I help clients come up with innovative solutions to their most difficult challenges by building integrated teams of their own, transforming company cultures, and supporting new products and services that optimize the ways they and their customers do business.
What is TXI?
TXI is a product innovation company that builds engaging digital products and enables businesses to scale. Those digital products help traditional manufacturers transform into industrial technology companies. From there, they can enter what’s known as the Titanium Economy and advance into Industry 4.0.
Across a variety of industries, including healthcare, retail, education, and manufacturing, TXI builds digital products through a commitment to engineering excellence, continuous improvement and feedback across teams, and user research-driven design thinking.
Our approach isn’t centered around a specific piece of technology, like cloud adoption or generative AI. Rather, it’s about empowering people to embrace those technologies as core components of their business. It’s a new approach to running a business, in which companies must adopt new ways of thinking, operating, and delivering their products.
What is the Titanium Economy and Industry 4.0? How do they impact the manufacturing space?
The Titanium Economy refers to the small-to-midsize industrial firms that, over the last decade, have embraced technology to transform their businesses. This often yields stable, more resilient business performance that rivals that of the flashier tech firms.
Similarly, Industry 4.0 (or, “the Fourth Industrial Revolution”) ties closely to the growing digital infrastructure that manufacturing companies have quietly built over the last decade. As companies upskill, reskill, and hire workers with critical skills to operate in these new environments, they enable new products and offerings to enter the wider ecosystem.
Specifically, within Industry 4.0, vast networks of industrial IoT (or IIoT) devices can enable predictive equipment maintenance, automate data collection and analysis, and make remote environmental monitoring possible as manufacturers link new solutions with traditionally manufactured products.
How can industrial technology pros develop products and processes that better serve their customers as their space develops?
One key way industrial companies can develop products to better serve their customers is through a thorough understanding of both hardware and software development cycles.
In Industry 4.0, businesses and their customers often will require a combination of physical devices and digital companion apps.
As they enter the field with specific experience in either software or hardware, they’ll find key differences in the innovation cycles: software updates can be designed, built, tested, and pushed in a matter of weeks, while hardware innovation is much more deliberate (and costly) as it usually takes place over a number of years.
By understanding how to navigate each cycle, companies can deliver the best of both worlds to businesses and their customers.
In other words: customers want access to data, so they can make better, faster decisions.
And by embracing iterative development, implementing agile processes and harnessing new opportunities to connect data from physical devices (hardware) into business intelligence systems (software), digital product leaders can create products and processes that better serve their customers.
What types of software or other automation tools are most popular for this sort of work in the manufacturing space?
For one industrial client, we developed wifi-connected hardware and a companion digital platform for real-time data analysis, visualization, and process automation. That way, they can ensure their environments are secure with modern, around-the-clock monitoring for instant insight into environmental conditions (often at warehouses storing sensitive metals or pharmaceutical products).
However, it’s important to remember that TXI’s digital transformation engagements in the industrial sector isn’t just about automating every level of production. It also requires a cultural shift to ensure those impacted by the change are effectively onboarded and prepared.
Our most successful industrial clients:
- Embrace data and analytics
- Welcome change
- Prioritize customer needs
- Collaborate willingly
- Strive for continuous improvement
How should manufacturers determine what processes should be automated – either on the factory floor or off-site activity related to monitoring, compliance, and so on?
When determining where to allocate resources toward automation, industrial companies should follow a data-backed approach. While digitally-native companies usually have data and analytics baked into their operating models, manufacturers and logistics companies often find it challenging to collect data and even more challenging to use those metrics to power decision making.
To find and leverage actionable data to make key decisions (like deciding which processes should be automated):
- Ask your team what they need to do their job better.
- Identify metrics that will correspond to progress against those needs.
- Start measuring.
- Put data into actionable terms.
- Give decision makers access to the data and the ensuing insights.
- Make decisions based on those insights.