While COVID-19 has accelerated manufacturers’ investments in Digital Transformation, most companies have been pursuing some degree of transformation as part of a move to Industry 4.0 for the last five or more years. Despite this, the success rate of these initiatives remains very low with failure rates as high as 84% as reported by Forbes. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, the path to business model change passes through organizational culture change. This helps to explain why many Digital Transformation efforts don’t yield anticipated results; change is hard.
There has been much written about why culture change is hard; from Psychology Today to Forbes. To make change easier, businesses need to make the change less painful or uncomfortable. While it may seem like technology is part of the problem, the reality is that in today’s business world technology can accelerate cultural change.
Three Ways a Good MES Can Promote Culture Change
When you expect people to change the way they work such as moving from a fixed assembly line approach for manufacturing to a more agile and adaptive work cell approach, as many companies do when adopting Industry 4.0, you often need people to be capable of performing more than a single repetitive task.
One way a good Manufacturing Execution System (MES) helps facilitate this behavioral change, and the underlying cultural shift is by removing some of the fear of making a mistake by providing step-by-step instructions. This fear can be further subsided with visual imagery on how to do tasks. When people know that there is guidance available, within the application, they are far more willing to try to be more flexible. Not having to reveal their inexperience or hesitancy by asking another person for assistance, the in-app assistance empowers greater confidence.
A second way a good MES promotes cultural change is by solidifying and standardizing best practices. The ability to take the best practice that works in one area or plant and move it elsewhere in the organization is fundamental to creating a culture of continuous improvement. By establishing work instructions and processes in the original process design and then capturing enhancements as practices in the field during actual deployment, the MES software helps to ensure that all users are part of the same continuous improvement cycle.
The key to making this part of the culture, however, is that the MES must have a quick way to capture, approve, and disseminate changes across the platform. This includes approval cycles that are quick while changes are properly vetted and all corresponding safety and regulatory requirements are still supported.
The third way a good MES fosters cultural change is through its user interface. Manufacturing is facing a labor crisis as fewer millennial and Gen Z workers see manufacturing as an attractive career. One of the reasons for this has been manufacturing’s reliance on older technology and rigid user interfaces.
Modern MES solutions provide a user experience (UX) that more closely resembles what the digital natives in the Gen Y/Z workforce use in their everyday lives on their smart devices. A modern MES supports smartphones, tablets, and other interfaces to present information in a visual, easy to consume format. And this must be done in an architecture that can support new technologies now emerging as mainstream, including Augmented and Assisted Reality (AR/VR) displays, that will attract a culturally different workforce.
Cultural change is key to successful Digital Transformation. So too are the systems that collect and distribute information quickly that enable a digital enterprise. Investing in a modern MES can be a powerful part of driving that change and bringing this vision to reality.
Dan Miklovic is founder and principal analyst at Lean Manufacturing Research, LLC. He has a wealth of experience as an end user, software vendor, consultant, and market research analyst. Learn more here.