Through the years, manufacturing veterans have read countless articles about how transforming their plant to include the latest smart technology like the industrial internet of things (IIoT) will increase productivity, reduce operating costs, provide greater access to data and allow for better decision making. In fact, a quick Google search on “technology transformation” results in more than 48.5 million hits on the topic. I’m sure the majority of these articles describes the positive impact a technology transformation can bring to the plant floor, and for the most part, I would agree. However, any advice on which technology can help transform your factory will only be worthwhile if your operation has two things: tech-savvy talent and a culture that encourages employee innovation and change. Without these two factors, you may find yourself eating the cost of a technology that is highly under-utilized. This may not be an easy thing to hear, but the reality is, without these two essentials, implementing a successful technology application will be an uphill battle.
A technology transformation is more of a corporate strategy for change rather than just applying smart products here and there. Much of the success or failure of your technology transformation investment will be attributed to the digital IQ of your organization’s leaders and their teams. The leadership teams will need to be completely onboard with a technology investment and plan a robust transformation strategy to make use of the information this investment will provide.
It’s also important to keep in mind that departments and budgets not generally associated directly with manufacturing output, such as information technology (IT), will be moving to the forefront. IT leadership must have a seat at the same operational table to discuss long-term technology investments and the implementation strategies involved to ensure synergy across the entire business, corporate and plant levels. This is why it is so important for your organization to embody a culture that promotes innovation, continuous improvement and ongoing training. There are many ways this can be accomplished, and regardless of the transformation strategy you choose, succeeding over the long term will require a committed and focused shift for most companies.
Much like the technology companies who are developing smart products for the future, manufacturing organizations will find themselves needing a new talent strategy – one where they attract tech-savvy millennials as well as invest in their existing workforce to build the necessary skills to stay competitive. In light of the recent skills gap study by Deloitte, it is clear that many companies struggle selling the younger generation on a career in manufacturing. While bridging this gap with new talent will continue to be a priority for the entire manufacturing sector, organizations looking to get ahead of the digital transformation curve must make this a strategic priority, from the top down. Of course, doing so will put pressure on your recruiting and human resources departments, but long term it will pay off by having the skilled talent when and where you need it.
The bottom line is that true digital transformation requires a shift in strategy to develop an entirely different business model that places technology at the core of its strategy and culture. It can be achieved if the right steps are taken, but many organizations still have years to go before fully embracing what it takes to make it a successful reality.