It’s believed that some 80% of UK businesses now have a strategy to create or grow their digital workplace.
Within that figure, there are sectors of industry and commerce who have transitioned to digital platforms for business functionality in a streamlined and symbiotic manner. It’s been a natural progression from a long-standing willingness to embrace change and adopt new technology to business goals.
However, there are some pockets of UK manufacturing that are still finding the fourth industrial revolution rather overwhelming. These tend to be companies who have been using old school working methods for decades if not centuries. For them, the transition to a digital workplace can seem like a massive “ask”.
That’s not to say they don’t use technology. It’s just that it is disjointed and piecemeal, with co-existing traditional systems still in place.
Money matters – investment anxiety
For older more established manufacturers – who have weathered many financial storms – investment in wide-sweeping technology can seem a substantial risk.
The chances are that they are adept at successfully producing a range of products, by juggling their orders and profits with the need to maintain and update essential equipment. Any technological investment beyond nuts, bolts and raw ingredients can seem a “luxury”.
Having the faith to invest in wholesale disruption, while integrating business functionality end-to-end, is difficult for them to contemplate.
However, for a company with ambition, this long-term thinking and willingness to invest are now crucial. The digital workplace is the only way to underpin lean manufacturing and agile production processes. If your manufacturing firm is not starting to operate along these lines, then you will quickly be left behind by your competitors. Somewhere in the world, it is inevitable that there are competing companies who have undergone – and managed – periods of disruption.
Therein lies the key. Investment and change need to be measured and managed. Slow moving companies don’t have to transform at a head-spinning speed – they just need to start the journey soon. Ignoring the Internet of Things, Big Data and the power of well-configured business information systems, on the other hand, is economic suicide.
Reluctance to change – if it’s not broke, why fix it?
For traditional manufacturing firms, business success pivots on producing enough units, of the right quality, on time. They rely on staff skills and insights and trusted machinery to keep on top of their order book demands.
The prospect of any upheaval or variation can be daunting. Changing over to a business process software and putting workflow management into the “hands” of technology can feel like a risk.
One essential fact that they may not be grasping is that creating a digital workplace is not relinquishing control, it is gaining more ability to manage and measure. In fact, the analytical abilities of a business process platform can provide far better control. Once traditional and slow-moving manufacturers understand the new powers they will be provided with, it is simply a question of timing new system implementation to minimise disruption.
Lack of staff engagement
Older more established firms often have different generations of the same family on their payroll throughout their history. They also have staff who “know how things are done” and who are not always willing to change that. They could have staff who are averse to learning new ways to do tasks, or who are more distrustful of technology in general.
It does not matter how many software additions you invest in, and sensors you fit to increase internet connectivity, it’s the attitude of the staff that dictates the pace of advancement.
Having an automated production line is one thing but having staff who understand the way that integrates with such things as stock control and warehousing is a whole different story. That’s why traditional manufacturing companies need carefully structured and staged staff engagement strategies.
Employees need to understand why the changes are necessary. They need to know the benefits of the digital workplace not just for the company, but their own satisfaction and work environment too.
In traditional companies, new system training must be structured in a way that enables them to feel comfortable and confident in using aspects of the digital workplace. Learning materials, therefore, must be freely available and user-friendly, via well-chosen intranet software. This enables staff to dip in as and when possible. They can learn at their own pace, freely reinforcing and revising what they need to know. Yet managers can see at a glance who has completed training units and who have read important updates, enabling them to give one-to-one coaching where necessary.
Get off on the right foot
Getting slower moving and more ingrained manufacturers to embrace the concept of a digital workplace clearly takes time and planning. The starting point is using a digital workplace solution that offers crystal clear benefits, and a tangible return on investment. That’s the way to win agreement from the boardroom to the warehouse.
Contact Claromentis for the solution and the support to make changes at a pace that matches your company.Get in touch