Small and mid-sized manufacturers have prided themselves on their organizational agility compared to tier-one companies. Their smaller size has, in the past, permitted them to respond quickly to demands placed on them by their larger customers. However, much of that agility was accidental in that it was just an artifact of their smallness. In this decade, all businesses have had to focus on organizational agility to adapt to the challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the current volatile geopolitical environment, and inflation. So, while these manufacturers have had agility, their workforce often has not been technologically enabled to the same degree larger manufacturers have. That is changing as the shift to cloud-based operational solutions and quality management systems (QMS) has paved the way for tier two and three manufacturers to have a workforce comprised of “agile workers”.
The Agile Worker – The Third Phase of Digital Transformation
In our previous posts on the Digital Worker and the Connected Worker, we showed how moving away from paper-based systems made for better and more accurate data collection — leading to higher visibility into operations. This also promoted greater collaboration and helped to break down organizational silos. Yet, the greatest benefits come when manufacturers leverage the gains from digitalization and use them to drive continuous improvement. Many manufacturers were driven to invest in digitalization by COVID so they could support remote workers during lockdowns. As restrictions were lifted, many manufacturers found that some of the advantages of remote working such as broader access to experts and the opportunity for expanded support hours were worth retaining.
Empowering workers with timely and accurate information results in improved profitability as employees almost always will strive to improve their performance. When someone continuously has all the necessary information to make decisions, they can react faster increasing organization flexibility and agility. When people can see the impact of their decisions in real-time, they can more easily implement and maintain changes without disruptions. With a process planning and execution system combined with supplier quality management (SQM), workers can:
- Increase visibility to supplier production to improve first-pass yields
- Ease the management of engineering change orders and supply chain disruption
- Improve business performance and customer satisfaction
Cloud Manufacturing Enables the Agile Worker
One of the greatest benefits of the Cloud has been to provide access to high-functionality tools such as a powerful enterprise-level Manufacturing Execution System to small and mid-sized manufacturers. Today, a manufacturer, regardless of size, has access to technology that allows them to:
- Digitalize their workforce and eliminate paper
- Connect workers together to foster collaboration
- Engage agile workers in a culture of continuous improvement
A Digital Operations Suite has a common data platform with a microservices architecture so manufacturers can streamline the production and sustainment of highly engineered products. With this technology, there is no excuse not to invest in securing a profitable future.