Every company is striving at various levels to produce the best product(s) of the highest quality at the lowest costs, and establishing a digital enterprise across manufacturing operations is a crucial step in the right direction. However, establishing a digital enterprise across manufacturing operations is not enough in and of itself.
Manufacturers must also cultivate communication and collaboration to win. Without attention to communication outside the digital platform, an operation can begin to break down. Over the past 15 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some truly incredible manufacturing environments spanning multiple industries, and driven by some extremely smart and dedicated people. In every one of them, communication and collaboration between and within divisions like manufacturing, engineering and quality made all the difference in their Smart Manufacturing environment.
Why Digitizing an Enterprise is Not Enough
Digitizing an enterprise is an important first step to automating and reducing manual processes, while simultaneously delivering increased visibility and traceability. However, collaboration and communication should not be left out of the process, because they are crucial to success.
In order to establish sustainable change in the digital enterprise, adaptation means even more communication and collaboration among cross functional teams.
Even the best enterprise-level systems out there can’t replace the value and power of an in-person meeting with colleagues. This may be obvious to some, but I witnessed the problems that can result from undervaluing collaboration firsthand. During a visit to a global Aerospace & Defense organization who established a Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) solution over 3 years ago, I witnessed how they simplified and streamlined their complex work instructions and inspection requirements, and included data collection and certification requirements in one system. Now, the company has expanded the solution across their manufacturing operations, because they learned the value of real-time visibility of work in process to the shop floor and communication in their digital enterprise solution.
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Communication Prevents Minor Details from Becoming Major Issues: An A&D Example
Complex manufacturing is a high variability environment, requiring many people, parts, and processes to work seamlessly together. Over time, it can be easy for someone to create manual workarounds, or simply neglect to communicate those little nagging situations that come up periodically since there’s a job to be done as efficiently and quickly as possible. However, ignoring these situations or details can prohibit productivity, or worse, expand into a much larger issue affecting multiple areas.
At my visit with the global Aerospace & Defense firm I mentioned, I saw various folks across Planning, Quality, Production, and IT communicate throughout the day. Each participant provided an open and honest review of how their Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) system impacted their area. This is the only way to get to the bottom of possible seen/unforeseen issues, and should be a regular event for any complex manufacturer. The process becomes especially important if the organization is going through a significant business change such as an acquisition, merger, or new program.
Establishing Sustainable Change in the Digital Enterprise
As Smart Manufacturing continues to take over, enterprises face increased pressure to change and adapt to the digitization of manufacturing. In order to establish sustainable change in the digital enterprise, adaptation means even more communication and collaboration among cross-functional teams.
Establishing a common platform solution to eliminate silos is important, but on-going communication is still critical to ensure adherence to best business processes. Digitizing your enterprise is not a set and forget endeavor for breaking down silos, which can be the most destructive element in cross-functional teams, according to the Harvard Business Review.
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To support a successful adoption and deployment of a Digital Enterprise:
- Provide ongoing executive support & visibility to incremental wins and achievements
- Employ team leaders that are both task-oriented and relationship-oriented
- Conduct regular, cross functional meetings to share what’s working, and what’s not
- Quantify feedback to determine areas of highest impact
- Include your vendor(s) in regular site assessments. They’re likely to be equally invested as you to establish success.
With initiatives such as Europe’s Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing in the US, it is important to ensure systems add value, rather than create a barrier to actual discussions and interactions.