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Change Management in Manufacturing

Change is something every organization must live with, regardless of industry or processes. Companies must actively monitor their growth, opportunities, threats, risks, and strengths while remaining agile enough to pivot. 

Twenty years ago, it was possible to make decisions for months or even years. But with the rapid digital transformation occurring in most industries and the explosion of data-exploiting abilities, reacting slowly is not only inadvisable but can also be suicidal. 

For manufacturing companies, this fact is even more imperative now than ever before. As technological advances create smarter manufacturing processes, along with the ever-present need to produce in the most cost-effective way possible, companies must continuously remain on their toes to identify and exploit opportunities. 

Whether your manufacturing company is seeking to predict industry trends or react quickly to them, change management is crucial to sustained growth. 

What is change management?

Every plan, process, or procedure to create a company that is ready for change whenever needed comes within change management. It involves creating dynamic organizations that understand the fact of change, prepares adequately for it, and take advantage at the right time. 

Although it is natural to only think of change management as something necessary for transformative pivots, this is not always the case. Organizations are typically experiencing internal and external change impulses all the time, both big and small. Some may come in the form of manufacturing process changes needed to optimize small parts of the production line. Simultaneously, others include the significant changes that affect an entire organization, bottom-up, or top-down. 

According to CEB, a technology best practices and insights company, change is even more common than we think. They find that the average organization faced 5 crucial changes within the past three years. Besides, 73% of companies will face more changes within the next three years. Some of the most common types of change initiatives they see companies experience include: 

  • Culture change 
  • Leadership transition 
  • Market expansion 
  • Merger or acquisition
  • Restructuring 

Considering that change happens so often to organizations, it makes sense to ensure dedicated systems to manage and usher in change. It is especially so because, due to various factors we will discuss later, change initiatives do not always succeed. 

CEB reports that of the 400+ change initiatives they examined, only 34% were successful. Of the rest, 50% failed, and 16% yielded mixed results. It hits home the need to prepare for change adequately. 

Why change management is important in manufacturing

Manufacturing in the most cost-effective way possible is a goal for most manufacturers, regardless of size. They want to be sure they are leveraging the right technologies (and methodologies) to ensure they can remain profitable and in pace with the competition. 

However, being fleet-footed enough to beat the competition or catch on to new trends’ coattails depends on being “change-ready”. It might not always be possible in a manufacturing industry subject to regulations and standards that prioritize safety over speed. Besides, a large part of change management involves getting employees, who have become comfortable with familiar workflows, to adapt to change.

As a result, the policies and processes become locked in after being made. Numerous rely on what has been described as the “unfreeze-change-refreeze” model to implement change. In this environment, effecting change fast enough to benefit at the right time can be complicated – crucially because the organization is not change-ready. 

Many companies are adopting a ground-up mentality to change management to circumvent this problem. Rather than sanctioning massive IT overhauls or calling in the specialists at the point where change is necessary, these organizations treat change as a part of their initial structure. 

There are many ways of achieving this. One is by adopting the right methodologies, such as lean and agile, to ensure the organization itself is mobile and flexible. Another is by housing the production process on ERP or turnkey solutions that promote flexible, change-ready production. 

These solutions help manufacturing companies rapidly scale up or down since they can enjoy fine control over their production processes. For instance, a manufacturing change can typically occur on the shop floor when a line worker discovers an issue in the production process. However, the change process does not stop when a solution is developed to solve the problem. 

A fair change process should go beyond this to store the information centrally and feed it into the design process. This way, engineers are aware of the production line situation and consider that information in ongoing and prospective design iterations. Other departments can also see this information, and the organization maintains a bird’s eye view of how it impacts the entire production process. 

Implementing change management the right way

A common way manufacturing companies will often experience change is when they are pressured by significant growth. Quoting a survey by Epicor, the Process Industry Informer observes that almost half of business leaders worry that development puts more pressure on operations, potentially damaging quality. 

However, the problem often stems from not having dedicated IT and organizational infrastructure that encourages change management. In line with this, the survey mentions that almost half of businesses also express concerns about their business IT systems’ capacity to accommodate a more complex or more extensive business model. 

Partnering with a provider that brings a high-performance, future-proof manufacturing solution can remove the IT concern in change management. But this is only one part of the goal, which should be to ensure the organization is ready for change, long before it comes. Some of the things to keep in mind in creating a change-ready organization includes: 

  • Building for change: Organizations that create their internal structures with an eye on change management find it easier to manage change. It is easier to rapidly implement change with a workforce that is used to thinking and working in a flexible, agile manner. 
  • Securing C-suite buy-in: When transformative change is necessary, it is crucial to ensure broad support across the organization, especially in the C-suite. This way, change initiatives will not be starved of substantial support midway through the project. 
  • Getting employees involved: Realistically, change is impossible without broad employee buy-in. Failing to get employees on board may result in resistance to the initiative, and may even lead to operational risk. 
  • Comprehensive planning: Finally, no matter how exciting an opportunity is, it needs adequate planning covering all the bases, before diving into it. The plan should also have buffers integrated into it to account for unforeseen events and activities such as testing. 

Create a change-ready process with FORCAM

FORCAM has supported the world’s largest companies with comprehensive Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions for years. Our turnkey and freely extensible cloud platform provide companies with the control, transparency, and insights they require to create an intelligent, change-ready manufacturing process. 

Change management is already tricky enough without managing processes across a slew of legacy systems or market-ready solutions. FORCAM integrates the production process in a single platform that encourages rapid, flexible change management. 

Contact us to learn more about how manufacturing companies around the world are enjoying productivity gains with FORCAM. 

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