What’s the difference between ‘digitise’ and ‘digitalise’?

Manufacturing is full of buzzwords, acronyms and jargon, some of which are interchangeable. But occasionally you will come across two similar-sounding words which people incorrectly switch between without thinking. ‘Digitise’ and ‘digitalise’ must mean the same thing, surely?

Well, up to a point. But we wouldn’t be writing this blog if that was the full story!


The first thing to mention is you’ll frequently see this written as ‘digitize’ and there is no correct option here (but Hexagon opts for UK spelling!). ‘Digitise’ describes the conversion of individual files or documents from analogue to a digital format. Whether you are turning an old vinyl record into an MP3 or scanning a document to send in an email as a pdf, the process is digitisation.


The main thing to differentiate ‘digitise’ and ‘digitalise’ is scale. In the former, you would convert a file, while in the latter you would transform a filing system (and potentially the entire business that uses the system). Digitalisation, and the increasingly-common term ‘digital transformation’, relate to the ongoing transition from analogue technology to digital across communities and industry.

The speed of transformation is incredible. According to Wikipedia, in 1986 less than 1% of the world’s data was stored digitally. By 2007, the figure was 94%. However, data storage is just one element of digital transformation as it encompasses the implementation of technology throughout the entire business.

Separate trends feeding into this process include Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Why does it matter?

Finding a sustainable competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector is easier said than done, but digital transformation can help with whichever strategy (or strategies) your organisation chooses to pursue.

Those seeking to become a cost leader will find that digitalisation offers a clear route to savings. Digitalised processes are easier to automate, they are faster and there is less waste because everything is joined up. Returning to our analogy of the filing system, consider the difference between searching through a filing cabinet for the information you need compared to searching a fully digitised database.

Digital transformation offers ways for companies to differentiate themselves too, especially in terms of user experience. When every touchpoint is digitalised, the experience of interacting with an organisation and its products becomes much simpler. The customer journey becomes one smooth, continuous operation regardless of the communication channels. Digital transformation allows organisations to get the most from the data they collect, understanding, predicting and acting on customer requirements at lightning speed.

Even before we’ve found customers for our products, digital transformation brings enormous benefits. Manufacturing is a data-intensive process and the most efficient way to convert that data into usable, actionable information is through digital transformation

An expert partner for digital transformation

Hexagon helps manufacturers navigate the sometimes challenging process of digitalising manufacturing. Our portfolio of manufacturing software and hardware connects devices and systems to unlock the potential of your data, making your manufacturing smarter and accelerating the journey towards true autonomy.

In the world of manufacturing, there can be a big difference between very similar sounding terms, so if you enjoyed this blog, discover another wording subtlety in our blog what is the difference between accuracy and precision.

Contact Hexagon today to discover how we can transform your manufacturing through digitalisation:

“Hexagon has helped us create a digital experience that preserves our focus on craftsmanship while bringing us into the twenty-first century.”

RV manufacturer, Airstream


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