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Posted on : Wednesday 17th June 2020 12:48 PM

Communication Is Holding Back the True Value of Automation

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Enterprise adoption of automation is on a steep upward climb across industries. According to Gartner’s 2019 CIO survey, organizational use of these technologies has increased by more than 270 percent over the past four years, with no sign of scaling down.


Digital transformation has the potential to thrust enormous value across industries — and the manufacturing sector is no different. But as a recent study by Nintex revealed, manufacturing organizations face many industry-specific issues that are slowing the momentum of digital progress. By strategically addressing these problems, manufacturers can come to realize the benefits automation offers.


The Hurdles to Realizing Transformation Value


According to Nintex’s 2018 Enterprise Digitization Progress Report, there are two roadblocks actively keeping manufacturers from realizing the value of digital transformation: unprepared IT departments and a lack of top-down communication.


The starting point to a effective enterprise digital transformation strategy is having the internal capabilities to carry it out — primarily, a prepared and proactive IT department. At the moment, that doesn't exist in the manufacturing sector.


Nintex’s digitization report — which surveyed 650 line-of-business employees and 450 enterprise decisionmakers — found that among manufacturing employees, only 29 percent felt their IT department was exceedingly prepared to manage the needs of digital transformation. By comparison, almost half of employees in the financial sector were very confident in their IT teams’ digital preparedness.


What accounts for manufacturing workers’ low level of confidence in their IT departments? Part of it is likely to be due to a sense of disconnect from transformation efforts and from the IT department in general. As Nintex’s study found, the remarkably majority of employees — 77 percent — want to be involved in transformation efforts. When they do not feel like they are, they begin to view digital transformation and automation not quite as resources that will augment their work, rather as active threats to their jobs.


Insufficient training of frontline workers is a separate (though related) issue that is impeding manufacturers from seeing a return on their digital investment. Of the enterprise decision makers surveyed by Nintex, approximately one-third indicated to lack of training of line-of-business workers on new technologies as one of the top difficulties standing in the way of digital progress. And indeed, the survey discovered that fewer than half of frontline employees are even familiar with the concept of digital transformation — a number that highlights an awareness gap between the c-suite and the frontline. Bridging this gap is important to digital progress.


The Value of Digital Transformation for Manufacturing


For manufacturing leaders, the very first step to realizing the benefits of digital transformation is to address the internal issues keeping it back. What that means is making a more concerted effort not only to improve frontline awareness about digital transformation planning, but also to proactively include these workers in the process. And on the IT side, departmental leadership need to consider an approach to IT that prioritizes cross-departmental engagement over the traditionally siloed role into which many IT workers are many times boxed.


Once manufacturing leaders have strategically addressed issues surrounding poor top-down communication and inadequate training, they can start to experience the far-reaching benefits of a considered transformation strategy:


•           Increased productivity:

By strategically applying automation technology, manufacturers can more properly regulate production and better delegate tasks according to priority order.


Consider HillPhoenix. A manufacturer of large refrigeration units, the company needed a solution to streamline its daily evaluation efforts. Before digitalizing, the inspection process was totally paper-based — employees used handwritten notes to record quality findings. This manual procedure increased the risk of errors, wasted inspection time with paper forms, minimal tracking records and developed more cumbersome processes.


After deploying workflow automation solutions, nevertheless, the company transitioned its inspection process from a system based primarily on memory and handwritten notes to one supported by a digital platform. The implementation of this platform not only decreased production-line errors, but significantly improved productivity.


•           New levels of innovation:

By driving greater productivity and alleviating the burden of lower-level tasks on the human workforce, automated answers lay the foundation for more innovation.


Companies like New Belgium beer show how automation can drive greater innovation. The company usually relied on Outlook and SharePoint to track and handle tasks related to product launches. However, this system created communication gaps and scheduling delays, which set it behind as new competitors were being introduced daily.


The company needed a better way to manage task management, increase communication among team members, and shorten launch timelines. By implementing no-code workflows to schedule and coordinate tasks, the company had the ability to notably speed up lower-level processes and therefore channel more time and resource into innovation.


By better prioritizing top-down and cross-departmental communication at the outset of a digital transformation plan, manufacturing leaders can lay the groundwork for successful long-term strategy. And after they do that, they can make new jumps in productivity and innovation.


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