Author: Amel Gardner, regional vice president – Middle East, Africa & India, Epicor Software Corp.
For Middle East manufacturers, or any business in general, the success of digital transformation isn’t just about investing in the right technology. As with any large-scale project—from a change in working location to a company merger—the impact on the people involved needs to be a key consideration when putting a strategy and implementation plan in place. However, in a bid to keep up with the latest technology trends, regional manufacturers could be shooting themselves in the foot by not addressing the change management and cultural aspects from the outset.
In fact, recent research has found that only a quarter (26 percent) of businesses consider change management strategies to be an important part of the move towards Industry 4.0 and the connected enterprise. This suggests that a large proportion of manufacturers are not putting steps in place to manage the impact of such a change on corporate culture, which could affect the ultimate success of any digital transformation project.
Six steps to success
A recent report from Deloitte into Industry 4.0 readiness found that even in today’s technology-driven world, senior executives are not as prepared as they think they are to reap rewards from digital transformation:
To make Industry 4.0 a success, no matter how big or small the change, manufacturers need to put key measures in place to manage the transition. This includes undertaking the necessary groundwork to ensure that whatever technology businesses invest in, they can get the best out of it.
Step one—Be realistic
Assess what needs to be automated and why. If something is working and the process efficient, it might not need changing just yet. The key to getting it right is to prioritise adoption rather than change for changes sake. A phased approach will be beneficial for everyone in the long term.
Step two—Get stakeholders on board
Following an assessment of priorities, manufacturers need to map and plan out what needs to happen next—from procurement to implementation and beyond. This ensures that all stakeholders from every department affected are clear about what is happening, why and when. Only then can everyone involved be prepared and plan for the roll-out.
Step three—Keep talking
Users need to feel they are part of the process and can raise any concerns or questions before a new way of working is thrust upon them. Taking time to address any potential issues at the start of a project will ensure users are bought into the process, understand what is expected of them and avoid any pitfalls further down the line.
Step four—Factor in ongoing training and support
For efficiencies and productivity to be realised, users need to have a good understanding of how the technology impacts their working practices. This can only be done through comprehensive training and ongoing support.
It is also worth considering that everyone learns in different ways, so whilst an online demo or training manual might be right for one person, someone else might prefer more visual tools like a video or a step-by-step animated guide, for example.
Step five—Take your time
Never lose sight of why you are investing in technology and keep your business objectives in mind—what your competitor is doing might not be the right approach for you. Jumping on the bandwagon or adopting new technology too quickly could be detrimental in the long-term, if the process is not well thought through or fit for purpose.
Step six—Undertake regular reviews
While following steps one to five will ensure the business has the best chance of successfully adopting new technology, it will all be in vain if you miss out step six. The hard work doesn’t stop when you reach go-live—in fact, that is only just the start of the digital transformation process.
For a project to be a true success, any technology investment needs to be reviewed and assessed regularly. Is it being used to its full potential? Are there any gaps in training? What more could the business get from it? What is the data showing? Can it be analysed to improve future business growth?
Only by following these six steps will the Middle East manufacturing industry bring the whole business along for the digital transformation ride and ensure that Industry 4.0 is a success. Having a clear change management and implementation strategy will enable businesses to realise the full value of technology, whilst guaranteeing strong ROI and user acceptance.