The Future of Manufacturing: Innovative Approaches to Change Management
Change occurs in all industries. It might be swift, such as the reactions of many employers to the rollout of the ACA. It might be slow, such as the reaction of most industries to the advent of 3D printing. In all cases, though, change occurs and it demands recognition eventually. Failure to handle change appropriately can lead to a loss of profitability and your company’s ability to compete within your industry.
For manufacturers, change comes in many shapes and forms, including:
- New technologies that promise higher output or less material waste.
- New rules and regulations regarding pollution, waste, or material usage.
- New and changing expectations and desires of end consumers.
- New needs for a reduction in materials or energy used.
- New systems offering improved production speed, quality and efficiency.
- New needs in terms of quality assurance and control during the manufacturing process.
- Design changes and product line changes that demand retooling of the manufacturing process.
These are just a few examples – there are myriad others. Change happens, and it will happen in your business. The question is how you will deal with it. Adopting an innovative approach to change management can help ensure that your business is not derailed or sidelined, and that you are able to “roll with the punches” and emerge victorious on the other side.
Understand That Change Will Happen
No matter what you might manufacturing, or what industry you might be in, change will happen throughout the lifecycle of your product(s). There is no avoiding it. The question is whether you will adopt a proactive stance or a reactive stance to managing that change.
Reactive: Today, too many businesses take a reactive stance to change management. That is, they do little or nothing until the need for change is immediate. This might be due to a growing number of errors in production runs, or it could be due to pressure from environmental groups. It could be due to limited supplies of certain raw materials, or a major breakdown of equipment.
Proactive: A proactive stance allows you to “get a jump” on issues that would otherwise slow down or halt your production. Proactive change management seeks to identify potential hurdles, challenges, and issues before they become critical concerns.
Identifying a future shortage of raw materials and finding an alternative option is one example. Realizing that production methods produce a particular type of pollutant and finding ways to ameliorate its impact on the environment, or eliminate the pollutant completely is another. Identifying the first flaws within production and then determining the cause and applying a fix without stopping the manufacturing process is yet another.
Change will happen, whether you are planning for it or not. By adopting an innovative approach to change management, you can ensure that not only is your business prepared, but that it can enjoy a wide range of benefits.
Key Benefits to Manufacturers
What benefits might your manufacturing business enjoy with the adoption of an innovative approach to change management?
Identifying Stakeholders: One of the first benefits is the ability to accurately identify all stakeholders who might be affected by the change in order to get everyone on the same page. Some stakeholders might be obvious – manufacturing equipment operators, or product designers, for instance. However, others might not be so obvious – end consumers, or members of the board of directors.
Establishing Leadership: Another benefit of implementing a robust change management program now is that you will be able to establish leadership – a chain of command, if you will. These individuals will be those responsible for manufacturing-related change, whether that’s the actual manufacturing process, equipment maintenance, material sourcing, product design or something else. Once leadership has been established, you can then open a dialog between all leaders to alert them to the need for the change, the impact of the change, and how it should be handled
Opening Lines of Communication: Along with establishing leadership and identifying stakeholders comes the opportunity to open lines of communication. These will be vital for handling change correctly and keeping everyone in the loop. A strong change management plan will include robust rules regarding communication in a number of mediums and formats, including by phone, electronically (email, chat apps, etc.), face to face, and even in group settings. Without strong, open communication between leaders, teams, and stakeholders, your efforts will fail.
Delivering Training for Those Affected: Training is an essential part of change management. You must identify those who will need retraining – machinery operators, designers, product packaging teams, etc. – and then create a program that will ensure training is delivered before changes go live. All those who will be affected by the change must complete training to sensitize everyone to the reason for the change, but also to develop new skills, impart new knowledge, and ensure that any interruptions to your day to day business are minimized.
Minimizing or Eliminating Business Interruptions: As mentioned above, business interruption minimization is an important benefit of implementing a strong change management strategy. If left unaddressed, change could mean a reduction in production, or even a cessation altogether. Can your business withstand days or even weeks of low or no production? Would your customers “stick around” and wait while you dealt with the issue? Today’s consumers have little loyalty for most of the companies they patronize, and a serious delay in product delivery will likely mean a significant number jump ship to a competitor.
As you can see, adopting an innovative approach to change management can offer a wide range of benefits to your company, ensuring that you are able to remain competitive, and even ramping up your ability to dominate your particular industry. However, change management may not be simple to implement. Even if you have a strategy in place, is it actually the right one? Is everyone onboard with it? Has your due diligence been done, all stakeholders identified, and leaders not only appointed, but lines of communication opened?
Sify Technologies offers groundbreaking solutions to manufacturing companies just like yours. We invite you to get in touch to learn more about how we can help you develop an innovative change management strategy.