Focus on enabling people, not replacing them
With every highly strategic, large-scale initiative, there’s always the following question: How do we determine what comes first, and what are the essential components to drive success?⁵ Building a Factory of the Future requires patience, focus and a willingness to invest in long-term transformative capabilities. Our research and engagement with hundreds of organizations has uncovered that more than half don’t know how or where to begin their transformation. Another quarter of them are struggling to either prove the value of transforming or effectively scale the technologies. To overcome these challenges, we have developed an approach jointly with clients that has proven successful in delivering results, creating alignment and enabling change.
Experience has revealed the following key characteristics to be common to a successful Factory of the Future transformation:
Bring a clear focus on connecting technology advancements with operational excellence and data foundation needs, with an emphasis on sustainable value creation. By doing this, manufacturers can eliminate the pilot purgatory that many face as they leverage technology and industry 4.0 use cases that complement their improvement programs and organizational capabilities. Where many organizations have led with the newest technology, successful Factories of the Future are built through the development of people and a connection to existing operational strategies.
Don’t let new roles and required skills be treated as an afterthought after technologies and structures are already put in place.⁶ Roles and skills should be debated and re-examined as plans are developed and the organization’s needs shift. Talent resources and learning plans should be approached through a lens of now, next and beyond. Upskilling, redeploying and hiring people will enable the organization to become future-ready while simultaneously empowering employees. Conversations with professionals should be reframed around not just what’s good for the business, but what’s good for them as well. This is an opportunity for employees to grow and gain marketable skills. A clear development path should be set for combining strategic thinking with technical understanding, and performance incentives should be set along the way.
Follow a “future-back” approach that complements the need to solve near-term issues while understanding long-term development needs. By looking at time horizons and aligning focus on now, next and beyond, factories are able to balance the need to deliver quick wins and address foundational gaps while leveraging technologies that enable future development. Companies can get an inside-out and outside-in view of their existing capabilities, as well as paint a picture of how the factory could function in the future. This balance can be highly successful in helping all levels of the organization, from shop floor employees to executives, grasp what a Factory of the Future truly entails, how it looks and feels different, and the scale of the transformation needed.
Build a robust business case by connecting the company’s Factory of the Future vision and road map to existing core strategic imperatives. This can include everything from market growth to customer retention to product innovation and more. Modeling tools should be leveraged that enable the organization to see impacts on costs and benefits by changing timelines, changing confidence levels on financials, and adding or removing specific activities. Displaying ROI and payback period data allows leaders to garner the support needed for the effort and to monitor improvements in the future.