3 Lessons From Leading A Digital Transformation Team

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Lesson #1: Be Cross Functional

The concept of cross functional teams is nothing new to the manufacturing industry, so there’s no reason for me to go into great detail about the power that comes from differing opinions in the dynamic of teams. But what is important is understanding why having each role within your team present is so critical as you move forward with your Smart Factory initiative

Each group within the organization has very specific insight to the process and the technical and social needs for successful implementation.

IT (Information Technology)

Including the IT department at the onset of the project is important so that all security and technical standards and protocols are being met as decisions about software and hardware are made. 

It is not uncommon for an Engineering group to choose desired software or IoT devices, only to find out later from the IT department that these critical pieces of their project do not meet company standards and policy.

Engineering

In any project, making changes and improvements to the production process should include the engineering department. Although IT may have a grasp on the back-end data collection, storage, and display, Engineering will have the technical insights on how the technology will be deployed on the equipment and its potential impact on the production process.

CI (Continuous Improvement) Group

Your Smart Factory initiative is performed for one initial purpose - to collect data! But what to do with this data and how to use it will fall on the Continuous Improvement group. Ensuring that the data you collect will be in a format and on platforms that are accessible to the CI department and all other departments, will be the catalyst to seeing quick and solid ROI on your Smart Factory investments.

Operations

Including the Operations group in the Smart Factory team is critical since they are the customer of the other team members. Everyone else on this list is in support of Operations. 

Operations (Manufacturing and Maintenance) will be the users to interface with your Smart Factory software, so having their input on the tools used will significantly increase the amount of quality data collected.

Lesson #2: Start With Foundational Data


This lesson may seem a bit backwards. “You mean I have to start with data to put in a system to collect data?” Well, kinda! 

Your initial step as a team will be to select the right software platform that will act as the central data collection hub for all of your factory data. Having the right Smart Factory software will give you the path and standards for collecting all data in your initiative. This data will come from many different sources like IoT devices, PLC’s and possibly AI configurations. But the first and most important data source will be from the shop-floor employees themselves. 

Having a Smart Factory platform that allows factory employee’s (Operators and Maintenance) to input the disruptions that occur on a daily basis in the build process, will supply data that will then allow your team to pinpoint where higher level Smart Factory applications will need to be made

A part of this lesson is to identify early the problem solving methodology your team will use to solve your Smart Factory issues. As an example, many companies will use the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) problem solving method. 

By choosing how you will solve the problem, the team can employ this method when the data directs them to the issues. The team will use data from the Smart Factory platform, identify the solution, deploy and follow-up. Successful Smart Factory implementations become efficient through the accelerated repetition of this process over time.

Lesson #3: Always Consider Your #1 Asset

Finally, it is critical that when you implement Smart Factory technology, you always take into consideration your most important asset. That asset being your workers. Believe it or not, the most important data that you will use to decide where to best spend your Smart Factory dollars will be from the shop-floor workers themselves… or at least should be. 

One reason companies fail at their Smart Factory implementation is lack of buy-in and cooperation from the general workforce. One thing a Smart Factory team should always consider is how easy and simple it is for your employees to input data into your software. In other words, how good is the User Experience and User Interface of your Smart Factory software. 

Having an easy to use Smart Factory software based on the development principles often found in Social Media ensures that the user will find it easy and even enjoyable to interact and input data.  

This data must also be valuable to the user’s everyday job. Most workplace software platforms were developed to feed data back up to supporting organizations, often for accounting purposes. Thus the software design and user interface looks like accounting software and has no relevance or value to the shop-floor user. 

Creating an environment where users input real-time data and then see that this interaction leads to improvements should be a key priority for a Smart Factory team. The end-user needs to be at the top of the list for consideration when implementing a digital transformation strategy or you will struggle to realize the intended success. 

Conclusion

Believe it or not, there is a method to digital transformation that has had a great deal of success over the past few years. This success is practically guaranteed if a pragmatic approach is implemented by the Digital Transformation team following some basic lessons learned from other successful deployments. (1)  Ensure you have representation from all departments on the team - Be Cross Functional. (2)  Choose a Smart Factory platform that can immediately collect data from the floor to point you in the right direction - Start With Foundational Data (3) Make sure everything you implement considers how the shop-floor worker will interface with the technology - Always Consider Your #1 Asset.

To learn more about how to lead a successful cross-functional Smart Factory team, watch the Worthington Industries success story video.

 

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Kevin Bryan

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