The fourth industrial revolution is upon us – this time, the digital one. Somewhat different, in that it affects each and every industry, sector and profession and pays no mind to location, we’re all hastening to adapt.
For the manufacturing industry specifically, the digital revolution means many things. Whilst it holds great promise for this sector in terms of improvements to be made across the board, there’s also a lot to think about and tough decisions to be made. To what degree should your manufacturing business digitize operations? To what degree should you automate? And what effect could this play long-term on the culture of your business?
In a recent article, our CEO Andrew Lavoie cited digital transformation as one of a few predicted trends for next year. So, what are the 3 keys to launching a successful strategy? Have a read below.
Digital transformation in manufacturing: implementing tech over the top of optimal processes
Technology’s job, essentially, is to improve what we already do well – not necessarily fix problems. As a result, implementing it on top of less-than-optimal processes could hinder rather than help.
Don’t digitize for the sake of it. You need to understand where the inefficiencies lie and put tech in place to make necessary improvements, rather than seeing it as a quick fix to an ongoing issue. On top of this, consider your operational processes; technology plastered over poor decision making, a weak roster or poorly defined workflows can ultimately end up being a costly investment.
Digital transformation in manufacturing: prioritization, planning and due-diligence
When it comes to digital transformation, it can be difficult to know where to start. Where should your focus be and, more importantly, when do you pull the trigger on a new system or way of working?
The key here is to understand your aim. Is your goal to better produce, analyze and understand the information your facility outputs? To put that data to better use? Is this a product improvement scheme? Or is it more about business growth as a whole? First take time to understand what you want to achieve, next how to do so (i.e. growth through increasing output vs reducing costs) and then it’s time for research, research, research.
Analyse the market and read every product review you can get your hands on. Try even to speak with other businesses who are users of a certain system or software, to understand the limitations of the tech you’re considering. With all that being said, avoid “analysis paralysis”: don’t overthink it to the point of doing nothing, which could mean losing out to your competition in the long run. Like we said – lots to think about!
Digital transformation in manufacturing: keeping your people engaged and involved, every step of the way
Investing in the technology is one part of digital transformation – helping your people come to terms with it, another entirely.
They may be wary of how their day-to-day role, responsibilities or the people they work with will change. Whilst I’m not heralding the arrival of the robot takeover, it’s no secret that technology and automation – particularly in manufacturing – equally creates and makes obsolete some ‘human’ positions. So, offer ongoing support and training to demonstrate how tech is going to help. Consult with them on making decisions as much as is possible/appropriate; get them involved and help them understand the positive impact and benefits of digitization, rather than seeing it as a challenge or something to fear. With a clear implementation schedule and strategy, your people will see that this isn’t just about robots increasing productivity; it’s about maintaining your company culture while creating new opportunities for all.
There’s no end to the myriad benefits a strong strategy for digital transformation in manufacturing can provide – but nothing can replace your people. We’d love to talk more about how we’re helping clients across North America build strong workforces as a part of their digital transformation strategy; don’t hesitate to get in touch.