The university in Herning helps local manufacturing companies with digital transformation

The Centre for Business Development (CBD) - part of Aarhus BSS in Herning - is inviting local manufacturing companies to join a project aiming to strengthen the business community’s efforts to develop new digital business models. The project is offered in collaboration with the Danish Technological Institute and the Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering and it is backed financially by the Danish Industry Foundation.

Due to global competition and huge technological advances, many Danish manufacturing companies are forced to develop their businesses digitally in order to survive in the future.  For that reason, the three organising partners have developed the project, which aims to help local companies prepare for a digital future. 

“The focus of the project is to help small and medium-sized companies improve their ability to integrate digital technologies into their business development. We wish to offer the companies specific tools and models to strengthen their current and future business development efforts,” says Annabeth Aagaard, associate professor and head of the CBD. 

“The project developed as a result of the Danish Industry Foundation’s theme-based call on new digital business models in 2017,” says Aagaard. The Danish Industry Foundation regularly sends out theme-based calls for project applications in fields that have a significant impact on Danish competitiveness. The inspiration comes from leaders in Danish manufacturing companies, among others. 

Workshops and master classes pave the way for digital transformation

The project is aimed at approximately 200 companies in total. 50 of these have already worked with digital transformation, but still have significant development potential. The remaining 150 companies do not yet work with digital transformation, but will get a thorough introduction and help to get started. And although the project was launched in the late summer, there is still room for more companies and participation is still free. 

“It’s not too late to join the project. We have lots of interesting workshops, master classes and open labs in the new year. Our primary task is to guide as many companies as possible through the digital transformation process,” says Anita Krogsøe Skou, research assistant at CBD. 

The project is built around a series of workshops, master classes and technological open labs - each with a different theme. In collaboration with CBD, the Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering and the Danish Technological Institute, the companies decide when it makes best sense to participate. 

“The companies do not have to participate in all parts of the project - no one has the time for that. In fact, it’s completely up to the companies to decide which activities they find interesting and would like to sign up for. We’d also be happy to tailor the project to the companies so that they get the most out of it,” says Skou adding that lots of interesting activities are offered for companies in the spring. 

“We offer master classes in everything from how to develop a business model and how to implement digital change to very specific open labs that focus on simulation, 3D printing and optimising warehouses with the use of robots,” she continues.  

Networking is the way to go

The project has been running for a few months, and several local companies have already participated in digital transformation workshops. 

“Naturally, this project is very much centred on digital transformation and business models - that’s the whole premise. However, just as importantly it offers companies the chance to develop networks and learn from each other,” says Skou. Torben Andersen, managing director at AUBO, agrees:  

“When it comes to digital transformation, there are no fixed answers. It can be frustrating and difficult for most people to make heads or tails of the concept,” he says. He joined one of the workshops in the spring in the hope of expanding his network and use dialogue and knowledge exchange to gain a greater insight into the world of digital transformation. 

“For me, this is all very much about exchanging knowledge. In this region, companies are sufficiently down to earth to be happy to talk to one another. And as head of a company, you’re probably always on the lookout for someone to discuss things with - and I’ve found that here,” says Andersen. 

Local companies not giving up on digital transformation

“We are in full swing, and I believe that we can already cross off lots of things on the digital transformation to-do list. As a managing director, I have to admit that when it comes to digital transformation, I cannot rely on pure intuition. Things have moved a such a fast pace that it is difficult to understand and make sense of it all,” says Andersen. However, he definitely sees the point of digital transformation and knows that it is the way to go.

“We’re not just going to stick our head in the sand. We’re located in the most innovative part of Denmark. The companies in this region were born out of the heathery moors and are the result of hard work and perseverance, so it’s not in us to hide from the development,” Andersen concludes. 

Finding tools and models that can help companies in their digital transformation efforts and teaching companies to use these tools is exactly what the project offered by the Center for Business Development (Aarhus BSS in Herning), the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering is aiming to do. The specific aim of the project is for 80 per cent of the participating companies to achieve a measurable maturation in terms of their digital business model development. The goal is to get even more local companies to sign up for the different workshops and master classes in order for them to benefit from the vast amount of knowledge found at the Center for Business Development and which the centre is eager to distribute to the local business community. 

The next series of workshops kicks off in January, and on 7 March, the Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering is hosting an Open Lab focusing on simulation. In other words, it is not too late to sign up. The upcoming activities are listed on the project website: