Smart Industry Chronicles - Part 4/4: Successful Digital Implementation
In the last article we learned about how to assess the current digital landscape, create the future state design and to make a roadmap that takes into account dependencies between physical changes on the shop floor and releases of new digital functionality. The digital roadmap can be seen as an overall blue print for the full digital transformation. The purpose of this next phase is to break this down into manageable pieces, piloting the approach and scaling the results throughout the value chain to allow maximum bottom-line impact.
Step 1: Detailing the program design and selecting pilot area
Doing the overall design of a digital transformation program is very similar to other type of shop floor based transformations. We need to set up the basics such as program management, steering committee, transformation KPIs and a solid review structure. We also need to spend time building capabilities and preparing the team and the stakeholders for the upcoming changes.
One of the hardest decisions to make in this phase is where to start the digital journey. Digital changes may seem quite abstract to many and it is essential to show early results in order to build up a strong and positive change momentum. When selecting where to start we should aim for a pilot area that allows us to:
Cover a full value loop inside a plant or in the supply chain (in order to make sure we avoid sub-optimization and can get clear, measurable results)
Solve a known business problem with high potential impact
Test and validate solutions that can be scaled within other areas of the company
Give staff more time to focus on value-adding tasks and make better decisions by having better digital support and interfaces (i.e. remove waste from administration and management of the process)
Step 2: Detailing the pilot design and work plan
Having decided on where to start, we need to spend time doing the detailed design of the solution all the way down to the nuts and bolts of the process. This is one of the most critical steps where many organizations go wrong.
Spending too little time on this will mean that we either will create a solution that will not capture the expected impact, or that we will end up with something that the users will find complicated and hard to use. For the business side, it may feel like a very abstract task and for the IT-organization it may be hard to understand all potential situations the users face during a workday.
The only solution to this is to have a strong, cross-functional team doing the design and to get early prototypes up and running. This agile approach will save time and help us continuously improve the final solution.
A typical case example from this type of work is from the digital transformation of a large assembly plant. By moving to a completely digital user interface for operators, located in the strike-zone of where they were working, we could remove more than 15% of non-value adding time across the assembly line. By automating data collection and creation of shift reports, supervisors could remove 30 minutes of administrative work each shift, and got even more reliable data to drive problem solving with. This would have not been possible without a very thorough understanding of where time could be saved, and a design that enabled that.
Step 3: Shop floor implementation
Moving into the implementation phase, it is time to rigorously execute the project plan with very strong line management involvement. In order to keep the pace we will actively follow up on all work streams at least two times per day, to make sure we can deal with implementation issues proactively.
Doing an implementation with both physical and digital changes in parallel is a challenging task. There are a few very practical learnings from doing this that are massively useful during this phase:
Over-invest in people: It is vital to create an early understanding of the future ways of working for the shop floor staff, both in order to capture potential improvement ideas and to create acceptance for the change. Make sure to invest significantly in this by starting with trainings as early as possible. This will reduce friction and help avoid unnecessary production losses when the new ways of working are launched. One very good way to do this is to create a training center, with real mock-ups of the future user interfaces where it is possible to touch, feel and train in a familiar environment
Standardize the set-up: One of the most common problems with doing digital changes in brown-field environments is that the process has developed over time and new solutions have been added over the years. This can be quite messy when the future ambition is to move to a "plug-and-produce" setup, where it should be easy to replace and communicate with new production equipment. When doing the digital implementation, one very important work stream is to standardize how equipment is connected to and communicate with each other. Working with a standard setup (based on ISA-95) for connecting hardware, a modular approach to programming PLCs will both enable the desired future state and remove several issues during implementation
Leverage the digital twin: one of the big benefits of building up a new and smart digital platform is that we get a digital twin where we can test and validate our solutions. Getting this in place and making it a natural part of change management allows many new possibilities and reduces implementation risks significantly. Simulation and investigations in how changes will affect different parts of the process makes it significantly easier to make informed implementation decisions
Finally: running the transformation requires hard work and focus. Getting off to a wrong start will quickly lead to less value created, overdue deadlines and increased cost. It is essential to leverage experience from doing this type of work and having this competence in the transformation team. No one will get this right on the first try, but following the guidelines above will set you up for a successful digital journey!
After successful digital pilot implementation, we are ready to move into continuous improvement mode and continue scaling the program to the remaining parts of the value stream. We have now covered the four steps of successful digital shop floor transformation using smart technologies. Feel free to share and comment on the article if you found it useful. For questions regarding the content, please contact martin.grauers (at) relean.se