Parsable Blog

Expert Insight from Global Cement Manufacturing Leaders: Digitalization Key to Future Proofing Frontline Operations

Ana Naus

I recently had the opportunity to speak with James Carroll, Director of Environment and Land for Holcim US, and Steven Switzer, Plant Manager for CEMEX, about the importance of today’s manufacturing workers having access to digital tools to provide an edge on the competition. In this webinar, Jim, Steve, and I explored the role of Parsable’s Connected Worker® in the digital transformation of two of the world’s largest cement manufacturers. Below are some of my key takeaways from the fantastic conversation we had together.

Ongoing Inefficiency Affecting the Cement Industry

“It’s hard enough to make great decisions every day. It’s even harder when you don’t have all the information, so that was the driving factor.” 

One of the most common problems within the cement industry is the sheer number of frontline manufacturing workers still operating with paper-based processes. Relying on these outdated processes means frontline workers are spending a significant amount of time manually gathering data or looking for information scattered across random pieces of paper, rather than spending time on more impactful and productive tasks. In turn, plant managers don’t have the insights on frontline operations needed to make the right decisions or make the goals set for themselves since they do not have accurate information in front of them. 

This incredibly slow way of working creates unnecessary downtime, regulatory compliance issues and ultimately dissatisfied employees. Jim and Steve both experienced these challenges with paper-based systems. For example, Jim was faced with potential violations with state regulatory agencies because he did not have quick access to accurate data, leading to risk and potential financial consequences. At the same time, Steve experienced disengaged employees who were dissatisfied with the poor processes and thus looking for new roles. Both leaders understood the need for a better way to track frontline operations and data.  

Understanding the Challenges

“The good thing is that for plant personnel when they have that kind of involvement and they see that their feedback is getting recognized, they’re more likely to use the tool because they now feel they have buy-in. They are a part of the process. It’s not something that’s being forced on them or mandated from on high.”

Without question, the manufacturing industry will continue to need people to do important work on the frontlines, so it is important to give this workforce the digital resources that many have become accustomed to in their daily lives. Jim and Steve both audited their manufacturing plants and sites to understand the challenges their workforce was facing and if digital tools could solve the problems. With that knowledge, Jim and Steve then turned to their employees to understand their opinions of leveraging  digital tools at work. Although there was hesitancy from older generations, Jim and Switzer framed this change as an opportunity to help their employees be successful with the help of technology.

Digital Implementation

“When we began talking with Parsable about adopting it throughout the company, Parsable came and put together a support team that provided us advice as to how other companies had gone about rolling Parsable out throughout the different areas. What the team was able to do was help us customize an approach that was specific to our operations.”

Holcim found the Parsable Connected Worker® and began developing standardized templates, ensuring the company met regulatory compliance requirements before implementing the new technology at the manufacturing plants. CEMEX was able to quickly put the platform right into the manufacturing plants’ production systems and worked with employees to create digital checklists. Holcim and CEMEX operated with a change management mindset of how technology can help frontline workers to  be successful. Throughout the process, both companies worked with Parsable’s customer success teams, who sent experts to train and share how each company can make the most impact with the platform. 

Measure the Impact of Digital Transformation 

“The benefit that was near and dear to my heart was the engagement side and getting that positive feedback cycle back to the employee that we heard them, that we saw it, that we listened, and we’re paying attention to what they’re out there doing.”

Today, manufacturing leaders must prove that the investments in time, resources and technology have an impact on the goals of a manufacturing organization. These impacts could be financial and / or cultural; however, it can be difficult to measure the total value of the technology that has been implemented into the manufacturing plants. 

With this in mind, Jim and Steve both believed the most efficient way to measure the success of a digital platform is through the experiences of frontline workers. Asking questions like – have they seen their own productivity increase since implementation? Often, the answer is a resounding “yes!” By taking the time to connect with frontline employees and understanding how these affect their day to day operations, manufacturing leaders can effectively measure the impact. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Connected Worker® by Parsable can help future proof your frontline operations, listen in to the full webinar for more detail.