"You're not as far behind as you think.
But if you don't start now,
you will fall behind."
At Industry Week's 2018 Manufacturing & Technology Expo in Raleigh, North Carolina, this sentiment ran like a directive through attendees. Manufacturers from Aerospace, Automotive, Robotics, and other industries were walking through the expo in search for secrets to success. With a series of inspiring talks about companies in different stages of their journey, companies were able to articulate what kind of company they wanted to become. In an effort to summarize what could only be described as one of the best summits for aspiring and enterprising best-in-class manufacturers, this article will highlight the key traits that companies said they wanted to possess in trying to become the company of the future, today.
Walking through the expo over the course of three days, manufacturers were seeking solutions that would not just put them ahead of their competitors. They wanted to do things differently. In an industry that constantly faces the argument "We've always done it this way!", manufacturers were open to hearing on these key topics:
How can my company increase our customer base?
How can we continue to expand our product line or business models from doing one thing to doing many things within our industry?
What role can digital transformation play in doing so?
Companies that are motivated in studying and improving their current operations will be much more prepared to tackle the challenges the industry and they understand that simply objecting the common way will only get them the common result.
Gut-based decision making is the most romantic concept in the business world. A leader's finely tuned instincts that can help guide the future of the company sounds like a story that becomes a best-seller quickly. However, in the real world, this is rare. From legendary investor Warren Buffet, to public speakers like Tony Robbins: most of their business decisions are made on a finely tuned palette for studying their industry data. When that study is good enough, it looks like instinct: any good CEO would be remiss without the mountains of data that gets consumed into deriving the right insights that lead to the right outcome.
However, most companies go about it the wrong way: they try to measure everything, and then extrapolate insight. The problem with this is that data is not framed in the context of the intended outcome. For this reason, companies that were most successful with data-driven digital transformation approached it differently.
Start with the intended outcome for your business. ( For ex: I want to become a lean organization)
Then identify what insights would allow you to see the outcome and the steps towards it. (For ex: In order to become lean, which departments are contributing to the most amount of non-value added activities?)
Then determine the data points you will need and could use to derive those insights. (For ex: I should measure time wasted on over-processing, waiting, and defects.)
Another common theme was gaining process maturity. With initiatives like Agile Scrum, Lean Manufacturing, Smart Manufacturing, and One Platform, ambitious companies seem taken with the idea of maturing their processes to a point that they can be automated. Automation has taken the workspace by storm with mixed feelings in those who haven't yet tried it.
However, those who have tried it have only reported positive results. Increasing efficiency by raising awareness of everyone's role in executing key operations has lead to increasing productivity and quality. While these remain a bottomline result that every company aims for, forward-thinking companies are more akin to relying on auditing their current processes and identifying where they can mature the process enough to automate them. This allows them to spend less time on logistical and administrative work and more valuable time and resources on redefining their product line and their business.
Companies were vocal about wanting to do more by being more informed about changes and shifts in their markets. A tell-tale sign of any successful professional in any field is their ability to stay on top of their game, and on top of their league. To do so, companies need a way to collate their entire knowledge base, legacy and new, in a way that allowed them to:
Delegate authority within the company to empower leaders at every level in the company.
Enable every member of the company to drive new business and better business through education, process improvement frameworks, and leadership.
Take an active look at data regarding the historical performance and make data driven decisions.
Rethinking your business is never easy: and the fact that the shot-clock is eventually going to run out adds more pressure. However, rushing to make a decision is not the smart thing to do. Companies and athletes are judged similarly on their abilities, technique, and above all, staying power. As a thriving business, you will be constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities. But what brought you here, won't take you there!
Invest in your company's future and identify what kind of company you want to be 10 years from now. Once you have identified that, the rest, well, we can help you with that.