Digital Innovation Lab: new way to imagine smart cables for 2030

Prysmian Group targets digital innovation as way to make core hardware business more efficient and profitable.

In mid-May, employees at the Milan headquarters of Prysmian Group’s purchasing office welcomed new colleagues tasked with executing the group’s daily metals purchasing. Each new colleague has its own computer workstation, and a computer mouse is busy on the screen. But no one sits there. That’s because the “colleague” is a robotic automation process software developed as integral part of the strategic innovation program lead by the group’s Digital Innovation Lab, overseen by Carlotta Dainese.

Adopting this software means freeing up office workers for more value-added tasks. It’s part of the Digital Innovation Lab’s mission to find ways for digital technology to create value for Prysmian and its customers.

What we want to do is reimagine our cable business by adding ‘next-to’ layers that could be either digital, or also software or data,” she explains. “To make our cables not just more intelligent, but also add on a service or an actual digital product.

Dainese joined Prysmian in January 2019 from energy group Veolia, where she launched an internal startup incubator. She works transversally across all departments of the group, and with Corporate Hangar, an external accelerator partly owned by Prysmian that supports the group’s innovation. Pilots developed by Digital Innovation Lab are open to eventual outside partnerships.

In 2017, Prysmian Group’s Information Technology function created an Innovation Lab to carry out pilot projects exploring how digital technology could add to its core business

Now it has been moved outside IT as a free-standing function alongside Sales, HR, Strategy, R&D and the others, and mandated to look at medium term revenue generating projects that are scalable across the company. Dainese reports to Stefano Brandinali, who has added duties as Chief Digital Officer to his role of Chief Information Officer.

Prysmian has a “digital ambition”: enabling the transition from the leading cable manufacturing company to a solution provider for the energy and telecom infrastructure.

The value proposition of the new Innovation Lab is based on 3 pillars, states Carlotta Dainese: 

Do more with less

Optimise business performance through digital solution. Efficiency is at Prysmian’s core and we want to bring it to the next level with impactful digital tools

Develop adding value digital products

Sustain growth by integrating digital services with our products. We believe that the new frontier for our industry will be the merge of physical, the cable, with digital, the software or data, and we want to drive this change.

Diffuse digital practices as “plankton” in the organisation 

Supporting collective intelligence with distributed access to digital tools. As plankton floats in the oceans, we want to diffuse digitalisation within the organisation through a natural and constant presence that enable our people in delivering value.

We want to bring digital culture to Prysmian without shouting about it, in a low-key but pervasive way,” added Brandinali. “Like plankton. We all eat it, but we don’t know that it exists.” The overall goal is to keep Prysmian in a leadership position in an evolving world where in 2030 digital technology will be part of every business, even if it’s a hardware business like Prysmian’s, says Brandinali. 

Robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are tools being examined by Digital Innovation Lab to do more with less. 

We are exploring using artificial intelligence to improve the quality of our products and reduce defects during production, we are also looking at developing augmented reality applications for remote maintenance. This is important in factories not only for safety, but also for training, as well as to cut down on times during maintenance operations.” says Dainese.

The remote maintenance system is being tested at the Arco Felice submarine cables plant near Naples.

Machine learning and big data are two other areas Dainese’s team is working on, as well as additive manufacturing in partnership with Prysmian’s R&D department

As a manufacturing company, we collect yearly a huge amount of data from our plants all over around the world and we want to leverage this “digital asset” to deliver value to our stakeholders.

We are working in an ecosystem with start-ups, universities and incubators to open ourselves up to networks and relationships to gain full potential of our investments in the digital innovation framework. With a new Digital Innovation department focused on the implementation of this ambition, we want to be enablers of a distributed digital innovation for our customers and our people.

Prysmian Group targets digital innovation as way to make core hardware business more efficient and profitable.