Parsable Blog

7 Ways To Get Buy-In for Your Factory’s Digital Transformation Programs

Anisha Padamshi

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If there’s one thing that’s constant among manufacturers, it’s to drive improvements in productivity, quality and safety and overall operational efficiency. And, while these objectives do not vary much from year to year, it’s how manufacturers achieve this goal that’s evolving. Industrial operations are leveraging technology to support their digital transformation journey. 

According to a recent IndustryWeek and Oracle study, 82% of manufacturers already have or plan to develop a digital transformation strategy; 30% feel they have a competitive advantage. The urgency around digital transformation is real, and the time for organizations to act is now – or else be left behind.

Manufacturing has reached a critical breaking point. What has widely been the norm for decades isn’t going to work anymore, especially in the pandemic and post-pandemic age. Companies need to find better, more efficient ways of operating. If you’re still using paper forms, checklists, work instructions or standard operating procedures (SOPs) – you’re getting in your own way.

Paper-based procedures lead to a lack of visibility into operations, opportunities for human error and non-compliance (or pencil whipping), and create harmful blindspots across your organization.

What lessons can manufacturers learn from organizations that have successfully transformed their operations at scale? 

If you have a vision of digitizing your operations and improving the lives of frontline workers across your organization, keep reading. In a recent conversation with industry leaders, we gathered valuable, practical insights into how they’ve implemented digital transformation at scale. 

Here are 7 ways to successfully drive digital transformation within your organization:

1. Establish a Clear Vision

The first thing that companies need to do is establish a vision for digital transformation with a clearly articulated strategy aligned across all functions – and it needs to come from the top. It needs to inspire every function. You can get everyone on board by setting up easy wins, in terms of use cases you can tackle or individuals that need to be involved in the process. At the end of the day, without a strategy in place – which will lay the groundwork for your success – this can easily be the reason a project fails. 

2. Find Your Team of Champions

Initially, the biggest challenge is cultural – how do you drive change? The current climate understandably complicates this. During times of uncertainty, people’s natural reaction is to hunker down and revert to what is familiar – what they know works. However, continuing on with outdated operating methods, like paper-based procedures, will not work now. Manufacturers must adjust to the new normal and better utilize digital technology. This is a watershed moment where companies can strategically reassess where they stand. 

Having a team of champions is instrumental. Particularly in the early stages, identify those early adopters, people willing to go the extra mile to make a difference. 

3. Reward Champions

As with any large undertaking like this, digital transformation requires rewarding the people that support the vision and strategy. It’s important to recognize champions and reward them for adopting and leading from the front. The recognition of team members really driving transformation, can really go a long way. Without them, none of this would be possible.

Grupo Bimbo, one of the largest bakeries in the world, understands the importance of celebrating its champions. The global manufacturer had the goal in mind of recognizing team members, for helping increase the number of use cases to drive usage within Parsable. Workers are rewarded with a personalized note, from the Vice President Global Digital Transformation and Data & Analytics, and certificates of recognition that are printed and posted in their offices.   

4. Focus on Humans

If one thing is certain, humans are indispensable. Despite the fear and chatter around automation, artificial intelligence and robots taking away industrial jobs – nothing is further from the truth. Humans still perform 72% of manufacturing tasks. Frontline workers on the plant floor are essential to not only keeping machines running, but to help drive change.

COVID-19 has impacted manufacturing by dividing the workforce into: individuals working remotely from home and others who are still on the factory floor, but socially distanced. Your team may not all physically be in the same location, but they still need to be connected and able to collaborate with each other no matter where they are.

5. Properly Budget 

Undertaking a digital transformation effort can seem like a daunting task, and a concern that often comes up is: What is an acceptable level of spend on digital? Is it part of an operational expense to improve efficiency, quality and safety, or is it an IT spend? 

Where companies struggle is when they try to compartmentalize it as part of an incremental IT spend. Accelerating digital requires over-investment. It’s like physics: If we want something to move, we need to apply force. Digital transformation is not an incremental increase in IT spend; it is a separate line item, because it’s driving overall efficiency at your organization and impacts every function.  

6. Start Small, Then Expand

Digitally transforming your operations means implementing dozens of use cases. Because it’s not necessarily realistic to implement a full transformation in one go, tackle it in stages. As a company, you must come together to find a common approach where you can drive visible return.

Start by identifying a couple of use cases that you can easily scale, and then iterate accordingly.

For example, use cases such as safety walks or pre-trip truck inspections are two areas where you can easily see tremendous near-term ROI.

7. Take Your Workforce Into Consideration 

By 2035, Millennials will make up three-quarters of the U.S. industrial workforce. The incoming generation of Millennial and Gen Z frontline workers poses a bit of a challenge for manufacturers. This is because the “old school” mentality of manufacturing operations is no longer acceptable. You can’t throw a 6-inch binder with step-by-step instructions at these digital natives. It simply won’t work. This dramatic shift will require you to re-think training, retraining and retention. 

Tools like Connected Worker™ technology are going to be instrumental to not only getting this younger generation on board, but providing them with the step-by-step training necessary to carry out procedures and tasks on the factory floor. Allowing the younger generation of workers to “call for help” using their mobile device to collaborate and instantly message other team members to help troubleshoot. Or watch a training video on the spot, can dramatically accelerate triaging an issue. Mobile-first technologies will become more of the norm over the next decade, replacing legacy-based systems.    

There is a massive urgency around digital transformation. It’s already happening right before our eyes and is inevitable for any manufacturing company that wants to prosper in the future. Change is scary and doesn’t come without risk. But, in manufacturing today, standing still is the biggest risk of all. Learn from those that have already begun the journey and embrace digital tools to help set you up for success.