How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years in manufacturing?
IT operations have become more responsive to variations in the manufacturing process. In the past, IT’s primary role was to provide technology that would help automate, integrate and simplify business processes. With technology taking center stage in people’s lives, IT is being looked at as a function which must add business value, drive innovation and create competitive advantages. The focus has now changed to insights and breakthrough innovation.
"Perhaps people, process and tools can sound cliché, but getting those three things right, or even close to right tends to drives success"
IT needs to be structured to deliver answers to the following questions:
• What insights can IT deliver that will help drive incremental business value?
• How can IT help de-risk the business from unpredictability?
• How can business react to competitive changes more quickly?
• And what is the next innovation that will help the business gain a significant competitive advantage?
This not only requires a new set of tools and technology, but a different skillset for human capital.
What do you think are the biggest Challenges that manufacturing technologists face in working in a more agile and outcomes based model?
Hyper competition, opening of emerging markets and complex supply chains have not only created problems for manufacturers but have also opened a new world of opportunities. Today’s organizations must focus on reducing cost while also insuring that they respond quickly to unexpected demand with the highest level of customer satisfaction.
There needs to be a complete rethinking of the current approaches followed by manufacturing technologists. The primary manufacturing focus is low cost, high quality, modular products. This type of production requires thought leadership about new processes and technology which can aid this new way of working. Organizations therefore need move from linear, sequential based manufacturing processes and systems to insights that can predict the future and minimize impact of uncertainty. They also need modular systems that can be adapted quickly to changing demand. This overall change requires a complete rethinking of processes, technologies that support those processes and a cultural change across the organization.
For example, a large CPG customer recently moved towards country category business teams. These are cross functional teams responsible to drive P&L. Their mandate is to work with speed, discipline, and react quickly to local completion, consumer and customer development. This has been a change which has been driven by top management and IT infrastructure lays the foundation for this initiative’s success.
Even though you do not measure your team on project deadlines, fast delivery must still be important to you. How are you delivering faster?
Perhaps people, process and tools can sound cliché, but getting those three things right, or even close to right tends to drives success. First are tools, with globally dispersed teams abound, collaborative tools can bind geographic gaps. Next is using Agile and DevOps approach to deliver quickly and with high quality. Lastly, but most importantly is the cultural change that’s needed from the top down. One of our clients, a leading CPG company, installed Office 365 and Skype for Business which brought collaboration tools to everyone at once. The key to their success was cultural change from the top down to use these tools on a daily basis. Today, the entire company is just one click away from each other helping them ramp up teams quickly.
What set of skills do you think is required for manufacturing technology leaders to be successful in the new enterprise landscape?
The skills required in new enterprise landscape are adaptability to change, ability to work in diverse teams across the globe, recognition of the need to deliver value fast and the ability to spot trends, tools or technologies that can add value to the business. This requires a deep understanding of business and the environments in which organizations operate.
What manufacturing or future technology innovations are you personally excited about?
There are so many exciting advances, but I personally feel Robotics, Virtual Reality and 3D printing are the foundation for tomorrow’s (today’s, really) manufacturing. Smaller, custom products will be printed at home, or at the hardware store. VR will drastically expand installation, repair and maintenance capabilities of field teams. Robotics and automation is already revolutionizing the shop floor. As these advances gain volume, production costs will drop bringing more products at higher quality to consumers. A smarter, connected world can also bring efficiencies and improvements to our economy.