Learning to use new technologies is hard. Implementing Digital Technologies into a company is very hard. But implementing Digital Technologies into a manufacturing shop floor is borderline impossible. The main challenge companies face implementing digital alternatives is that it involves a complete buy-in of different organizational levels, from top-level executives to operators, all must buy the digital agenda. After implementing dozens of digital technologies into different manufacturing processes, these are some key takeaways we have learned along the way.
1.- Be crystal clear on how this technology will solve a particular problem, and how is success going to be measured.
This might sound like something too obvious to even be mentioned, but this is a consistently overlooked matter. A correct course of action is to identify a clear business KPI and the expected benefit from a digital implementation.
How not to do it: Digitize a manufacturing process by implementing IoT. This technology will help to see the factory in realtime to extract data and use it with new big data technologies. By doing this,
How to do it: Increment machine Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) by implementing IoT in the manufacturing process. This technology will help track realtime machine variables, predicting when the machine is reaching critical ranges and thus preventing unwanted stops. By doing this machine availability, production quality, and general efficiency will increase.
2.-Keep the communication flowing.
OK, this is a big one. One of the main reasons people tend to not like technology is because they believe stories about how it will take away their jobs. Creating a clear top-to-bottom message of how implementing these technologies will not only benefit the company but also anyone using it.
Not being explicit in this matter will create a major uncertainty among the stakeholders, especially if the technology is replacing one or several tasks from an employee.
A communication strategy with a clear and consistent message towards the stakeholders throughout the implementation process is as important as the implementation itself.
3.- Acknowledge the existence of unknown unknowns. And act accordingly.
While implementing digital technologies into the shop floor, many unexpected issues will come up. Such as connectivity, electromagnetic noise, data quality, some overlooked business rule, among many others. To have a successful digital implementation, a company must understand that, as the implementation moves forward it will stumble upon many unexpected issues and must have the flexibility to pivot as needed.
To understand and sharply execute these three elements will define the success or failure of any digital implementation into the shopfloor. We have learned these lessons the hard way, failing and iterating towards the right way. We hope you find this useful.