Back to the Future in Manufacturing

July 4, 2017

Back to the Future in Manufacturing

Marty wasn’t looking for new Calvin Klein’s, skateboard adventures, or a garbage-fueled DeLorean. We all know that he found these things by traveling back to the 1950’s but that wasn’t the real storyline. Saving Doc Brown from plutonium thieves and getting his parents to hook-up, that was the main theme and everything else just revolved around it. Such is life. Often what we hope to convey in a manuscript – or a business initiative – is never what stays with the target audience. Let’s take these four corporate objectives as an example: improving cost, efficiencies, compliance and employee engagement. The way we support the storyline – not just the core events – will determine whether we’re successful or not.

The Analog Manufacturer

Today’s manufacturer tends to be largely Analog in their approach to Workforce Management systems. That’s not to say that companies are manual or unsophisticated. In most cases, companies are using business apps to publish schedules, capture employee timekeeping data, define direct and indirect costs, run reports, and process payroll. It’s seldom a paper process. However, too frequently Workforce systems are disparate, disconnected, and don’t leverage the wonderful resources that the cloud offers. It’s akin to Doc harnessing the energy of the lightening-bolt but not achieving the transfer back to Marty’s car. Without integrating the cloud to the advantages of mobility, social, or analytics – you’re running Analog.

The Analog Manufacturer has no lever to connect apps or initiatives for improving cost and efficiency – or compliance and engagement – simultaneously. What lowers production cost can lead to slower turnaround or efficiency, and what impacts regulatory compliance disenfranchises today’s workforce and their level of engagement. This is classic Analog. Further, this disconnectedness is incredibly challenging to manage as it yanks tremendous resources from business analysts and IT to merely support. Even the most trivial cross reference of data sources becomes impractical at best – often a huge drain of corporate time and energy. Analog has the appearance of sufficient but will leave companies stranded in the past.

It's Time for Digital

In the classic movie, Marty was able to achieve integration of relationships and technology in the most dramatic kind of way. He saved the day – he saved the McFly legacy. Workforce Xi is a thoughtfully engineered cloud-native and social platform that is responsive, touch-enabled, mobile first, and includes the industry’s most powerful BI/analytics engine. It’s a strategy for connecting people with corporate objectives, and enterprise initiatives with plant operations – even in the world’s largest and most complex manufacturing environments. Digital is the future but it doesn’t always need to be the central theme or main storyline. Achievement can be done one step at a time, or like a lightening bolt back to the future.

No matter the time taken or the path chosen, the Digital Manufacturer will be enabled to eliminate costs, time and errors in a manner that only connectedness can achieve. In doing so, efficiency can be improved because accuracy and throughput measurement is also properly accounted for at the time of production – not after the fact. Digital also promotes employee engagement in a way that delivers transparent understanding e.g., to pay and work rules, health and safety regulations, and proper staffing prioritization. If the platform is connected, so too will the outcomes Manufacturers need to achieve. In its most-simple form, Analog is a tactic while Digital is a strategy that connects past to present to future.

The real storyline in Manufacturing is that the future is now and the time to innovate with Digital is here.

Mark Butler, Vice President, Workforce Management, Manufacturing, @jmarkbutler

Dr. Scott Morgan, SPHR, Vice President, Workforce Management, Americas, @scottmorgansphr

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