While improved processes and new technologies help, little can be achieved without people. People are key to sustainable manufacturing. Here, we explain how to ensure the human factor plays an essential role in business’s success and sustainability, helping to respond rapidly to changes and challenges.
Data empowers people to work smarter and impacts the decisions they make. Driven by numerous challenges, manufacturing organisations have learned how to work leaner, cut costs and use digital technologies to survive.
More than data, the use of digital must provide actionable data. The data revolution is not just about collecting information; it should empower people to work smarter and should impact the decisions they make for the business.
A recent survey from iBASEt published by the Forbes Technology Council surveyed more than 400 manufacturing executives in the United States and the United Kingdom. Only 44% of respondents said recent modernisation efforts have provided actionable data, while 19% have not harnessed any data insights.
“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. But when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” — George Westerman, MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy
The same survey highlighted that a large portion of manufacturing companies still leverage outdated manual processes:
There is a better way to do it that is not simple but achievable. The first step is enabling people to go digital by giving them tools that make their jobs easier with automation. The second one is to empower them to use and own the tools, which is sustainable only if running on aligned and efficient work processes.
There is a perception that technology is designed to replace people. But a successful organisation knows that technology is best used when it enables individuals to perform better in their daily work, pursuing a culture of improvement and feeling valued. People are key to sustainable manufacturing.
Even then, many digital transformations fail because the users do not actively participate in the design phase of the change. A senior manager in digital transformation at one of our European chemicals manufacturing customers described their first steps.
During a recent conversation, he told us: “We didn’t start the journey in the best way possible. A decision was taken to standardise all plants’ production reporting systems and bring all the factories’ data into one database. From a standardisation and data architecture point of view, it made sense. But from a user and process improvement perspective, the value was much harder to find. And that led to a lot of frustration and resistance during the project.”
For decades, digital tools for manufacturing have been developed with only a specific business outcome in mind rather than solving the specific user problem. This doesn’t mean that the overall outcome and a user-centric solution are mutually exclusive. Instead, it enforces the view that incorporating the end users into the solution is the most efficient and predictable way to achieve the best overall result.
The chemical company above decided to change its approach and work with the “voice of the customer”, in that case, the manufacturing staff, in addition to the “voice of the business”. The company got help from Cyzag to develop a tool using design thinking. This methodology places the user at the core of the design, aligning the software with their specific needs and problems.
After the team understood what would deliver value to the operators following some iterations, the Whiteboard broke the initial resistance, and change happened with less friction. Our customer added: “Cyzag developed a modern tool together with some operators from one of the plants. The result of this user-centric approach is an attractive and intuitive interface. People in the plant are happy to use it. And they can provide feedback on the tool and see the improvement in the tool itself happening very fast. And this was really the first success, the first time I got positive feedback in that whole big project.”
Enabling people by using technology is the starting point. To make digital tools sustainable, empowering people to use them to deliver their best every day is necessary. This does not happen immediately and only becomes sustainable when users see the value in the tool. Work must be easier and more efficient using digital tools, which requires not only the tool to be adequate but the work processes to be aligned and efficient.
When operators start seeing the results of their work, feel confident to make decisions based on data and realise how much low-value tasks are reduced, it signals that the tool’s adoption is on the right track. Using a tool like Cyzag Whiteboard is part of a new way of working, and people ask for it, value and own it.
“Now we have a tool which helps operators identify production losses and map them to the respective root causes. That works, people use it, and it creates a great information source ready to use for continuous improvement. You can see the benefit of bringing the information and the action closer to the shop floor”, he added.
People are key to sustainable manufacturing success. The change in behaviour where frontline workers own performance improvements can be challenging initially, but it is hard to stop after building momentum.
We empower your frontline staff to leverage data at the manufacturing process source. Give power to your people, with Whiteboard by Cyzag.