What are the most important parts of your manufacturing business?
For many, our ideas, our products, our customers, our processes and even our technology all jump to mind, and while these are correct, one aspect that’s often overlooked is how critical our people are for growing a successful business.
When undertaking technological transformation, people are even more paramount.
With the rise of Industry 4.0, an increasing number of manufacturers are embarking on digital transformation journeys with the goal of taking their business to the next level. Having seen the significant gains in productivity, quality and profit from technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, it’s no surprise that middle market manufacturers are exploring how these tools can be incorporated into their business.
However, when undertaking tech-based initiatives, businesses often focus so heavily on ensuring that the tech is state-of-the-art, that preparing and transitioning their people for the changes can be often left by the wayside.
Therefore, if you’re considering investing in new technologies and processes, it’s critical that you take the right steps to engage early and prepare your people for change.
As the transformation journey is often accompanied by new challenges and setbacks along the way, instilling a company-wide mindset that encourages continuous improvement and a willingness to fail is key to ensuring your transformation initiatives don’t lose steam.
Before you embark on your change journey, one critical element is thinking about when you do this. In our experience, the sooner you involve those people who will be impacted by change, the greater your chance is that you will achieve the outcomes you are striving for.
To help you achieve this, we’ve shared our 7Cs of championing change below, and how you can use them to set your people up for success.
Redesigning the ways you do business requires a strategy that implements change with the greatest traction. For any new transformation initiative to be successful there must be buy-in from the key stakeholders in the business, and for people to want to change they first must understand why they need to change.
You need to take people on the journey with you. When telling people about our ideas for change, we often want to jump right into our exciting strategies of ‘how’ and ‘what’ we are going to do to change, such as introducing new equipment or software, rather than focus on ‘why’ we are changing.
Starting your conversations with the ‘why’ will not only help you to build a strong business case for your initiative, convincing management to buy in, but it will also help you to refine your scope in the process as you must also justify to yourself how your idea effectively answers your reasons for change.
- Make the case for change
- Scope the change initiative
- Win management support.
Ensuring alignment at each stage of change will help improve organisational value. This is done through fostering commitment across the organisation aimed at achieving your change goals. When we think of someone who is committed to something, we imagine someone who is passionate, enthusiastic and determined, with a clear vision in mind of what they want to achieve and the goals they are accountable to.
And this is no different when it comes to business – management must be unified in their vision for change and the outcomes they want to achieve. This requires strong leadership to ‘sing from the same song sheet’, by sharing stories and a clear vision. If the tone at the top towards change is enthusiastic and driven, these ideas will filter down throughout the business, fostering an environment supportive of ideation and experimentation.
There must also be change ‘champions’ at all levels of the business who want to take ownership for achieving milestones towards these outcomes and are passionate about achieving lasting change.
- Set your strategic vision and desired outcomes
- Identify internal change champions
- Establish ownership.
In order to effectively set your people up for success during the transformation journey, it’s vital to develop a plan to implement your change initiative and identify any potential roadblocks or barriers that could arise as your business model changes.
A stakeholder analysis can assess your organisation’s readiness for change to ensure you make the right decisions; properly leveraging any opportunities and plan for any obstacles that may affect the implementation. A common issue that manufacturing businesses face when undertaking new technological projects is trying to quickly upskill existing employees to use new technologies as well as taking the time to effectively communicate how their roles could change.
As robotics and automation start to replace manual aspects in the production process, it’s important that business owners consider all potential impacts their change initiative could have on the business.
In the case of increasing automation, not only may existing employees need to be upskilled to operate and maintain new equipment, but new processes and steps may need to be in place to ensure effective integration of the supply chain. Therefore, it’s vital that you identify and plan for all of these aspects as part of your change management approach.
- Conduct a baseline assessment and identify barriers
- Define operational, process, people and behavioural change impacts
- Create a change plan.
Clear and transparent communication is crucial in change management and organisations should use both structured communication through both formal and informal channels - such as ‘gossip circles’ - to ensure information is correct. These channels can be established through a communication audit and leveraged strategically.
Poor communication between management and staff about the change process and its implementation can result in a negative culture in your business. If your employees don’t understand how the process will impact them and what new expectations management may have, they may begin to feel excluded and threatened.
While change can bring many benefits and new ways of doing things, if your people are worried about how that change may impact them, for example, their job security, they may be more resistant to change making it more difficult for you to prepare them for the transition.
This is where empowering your middle managers can also help significantly. While the strategic vision for the initiative may come from the top, encouraging your middle managers to break down that vision into specific goals and expectations for their team builds inclusivity and facilitates clear and positive messaging at all levels. Employees who feel like they have a role and purpose in the project are more likely to be ‘converted’ on board and ‘convert’ their peers.
- Lay out the strategic vision
- Communicate individual expectations
- Empower middle managers.
Now that you have the vision, plan, and people on board, it’s time to get your change initiative underway. First things first, you have to make sure your people on the ground have the right skills - technical courses, webinars, on-the-job training and shadowing are all effective ways to upskill and share knowledge across your team. If you’re introducing new equipment or software, consider asking your supplier to provide training workshops and tools for the staff who will be using them.
It is also important to acknowledge that change takes time. Staff cannot learn new skills and processes overnight, so it’s vital that you have processes in place to reinforce new knowledge and procedures. In any change experience there will be setbacks throughout the transition. Failure is part of the learning process, so acknowledging and preparing for this will be an important part of your change management process. Therefore, to keep up motivation throughout what can be a tumultuous process, it’s good to recognise and reward the wins along the way.
- Equip employees with training and tools
- Systematise reinforcement
- Recognise and reward the wins.
Throughout the change process, it is important to recognise that roles and responsibilities are going to change and evolve. The introduction of new technology often requires new skills, and so you may need to hire some new people to fill that shortage.
For example: A business investing in a new software which facilitates better communication across the supply chain may not only need to upskill their current IT team, but also introduce new roles for managing and maintaining the software. On the other hand, there is also the risk that these new technologies may make some existing jobs obsolete, so the business will need to look at how to retrain their staff to work in new areas.
This is also an opportune time to ask employees for feedback and find out if they have enough training and support for their new roles and address any gaps.
- Clarify new roles and responsibilities
- Develop and train for new skill sets
- Invite employee feedback.
As the common saying goes, ‘what gets measured, gets managed’, and the only way to effectively see if you’re achieving your goals and the impact that it is having on your organisation, is by monitoring and tracking your progress.
When incorporating new technologies and processes, it is vital to track quantitative metrics alongside qualitative data. Data analytics allow you to remain focused on your goals and make accurate operational decisions.
Quantitative metrics will show how improvements are affecting things like your productivity levels, cycle and process times and output quality. Qualitative data can be captured by regularly collecting feedback from all levels within your business, and any suppliers or customers in your chain who might be affected by your change project. This will give you some context to your quantitative results as well as help you to identify any specific pain points in your business and gaps in communication.
Once this information is collated, it’s important that it is communicated to the relevant teams and stakeholders to help them understand the impact they are having on the wider business and whether there are avenues for improvement. Where communication gaps lie, there should be changes made to correct these.
- Monitor and report on progress
- Measure business and cultural impact
- Create a cross-functional feedback loop.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that no matter how good your technology is, the way you prepare and transition your people through the changes that Industry 4.0 brings will have a significant impact on your ability to deliver on your company’s objectives.
For more information on how your manufacturing business can get the most out of Industry 4.0 refer to our guide or contact Jenine Waters for more information.
Download BDO's Guide to Manufacturing 4.0