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Win The Manufacturing Boom With These Changes In Management Practices

Saar Yoskovitz, Forbes Councils Member

Forbes Technology Council


America is in the midst of a factory boom, with the U.S. Department of Treasury reporting that real manufacturing construction spending has doubled since the end of 2021. But accelerating construction is not enough. Finding enough skilled workers to populate these plants is one of the main challenges the industry faces. In this full-speed-ahead environment, it’s never been more important for manufacturing leadership to leverage Industry 4.0 solutions to streamline their operations and deliver the products we rely on in every area of daily life.


But doing this isn’t simple. According to research from McKinsey & Company, 74% of manufacturers are stuck in pilot purgatory, reporting they have not achieved success at scaling Industry 4.0 use cases.


To keep up with the factory boom and stay competitive, leadership must continue innovating. This means bringing in cutting-edge technology to drive new and bigger business outcomes and bridge the ever-increasing talent generation gap. Leaders must embrace best practices around change management to ensure everyone from the boardroom to the plant floor rows in the same direction. Skipping (or forgetting) to manage change lessens the impact and threatens the success of new technology implementation. The most effective leaders leverage change management, which includes establishing trust, appointing transformation champions, and creating a programmatic approach to upskilling.


Establishing Enterprise-Wide Trust

Communication is essential to establishing enterprise-wide trust. For skeptics or colleagues in nontechnical roles at the C-suite level, it’s important to articulate the tangible benefits of the proposed technology initiative and its impact on solving business problems. Breaking down technical jargon into digestible points can help the executive team make informed decisions. Addressing potential risks and challenges transparently, and presenting a comprehensive plan for implementation and ongoing support, will further instill confidence in the technology’s strategic value.


On the factory floor, communication is equally important. Leaders must connect new tech initiatives to business goals, emphasizing the expected benefits while being transparent about any potential challenges. They should highlight how the technology will positively impact workers’ day-to-day responsibilities. Emphasizing skill enhancement and career progression may also help flip the paradigm from one of concern to one of anticipation. Consider leveraging town hall meetings, Q&A sessions, and feedback forums to provide a platform for employees to ask questions, voice concerns, and seek clarification. Ultimately, clear, accessible, and repeat communication will be instrumental in gaining the support and trust of those on the front lines.


Remember that words are just one part of communication. Leaders who actively participate in the transformation process can create shared ownership and commitment to the journey ahead. By engaging with the workforce, understanding their daily challenges, and incorporating their feedback into decision-making, these actions will speak as loud, or even louder, than words.


Appointing The Right Leaders To Drive Digital Transformation

The success of digital transformation is also dependent on identifying and appointing leaders who possess strategic acumen and actively engage in the entire transformation process. Ideal candidates to lead the charge know how to paint a vision and motivate people. They also have a track record of adaptability, innovative thinking, and a deep understanding of existing manufacturing processes. As champions for change, these leaders should be able to address obstacles head-on, leveraging their experience to navigate challenges and ensure a successful, enterprise-wide roll-out. Most importantly, leaders need to understand that change is about people. Leaders who can connect with people and bring them along on the journey position their projects for greater success.


Programs That Upskill Your Workforce

As the boomer generation retires and manufacturers race to recruit new talent, upskilling the existing workforce remains a strategic imperative. To help employees successfully navigate digital transformation, businesses must establish a comprehensive, enterprise-wide upskilling program. This program should encompass technical and soft skills essential for thriving in a digitally driven environment. Clear goals must be set outlining the desired skills and competencies that employees should acquire throughout the upskilling journey. Whether it’s mastering new technologies, enhancing problem-solving abilities, or fostering a collaborative mindset, the program should align with the organization’s overall objectives.


A strong communications plan is crucial to the success of an upskilling program. Similar to establishing enterprise-wide trust, leaders must create an open and inclusive environment where workers feel encouraged to ask questions about the ongoing transformation and understand how they can actively support the change. Additionally, incorporating mentorship programs and peer-to-peer learning opportunities will enable employees to support each other throughout the upskilling journey, promoting a collaborative atmosphere that is essential for navigating the complexities of digital transformation.

Technology’s role in driving transformation shows no signs of slowing. As new technology initiatives hit the factory floor, leaders prioritizing robust change management best practices are positioned to leapfrog over their competition while attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry.


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