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‘Resistance to change’ the top challenge for smart manufacturing

The use of technology and data for smarter manufacturing is advancing slowly in most companies, with resistance to change seen as a top challenge holding back progress, according to a new survey.

Technology research and advisory firm ISG found that 69 per cent of global manufacturing companies have a dedicated structure in place to operate and coordinate initiatives for ‘smart manufacturing’– described as the practice of leveraging technology and data in a continuous loop to connect product development, design, manufacturing, supply chain and post-sale activity.

More than half of the companies surveyed stated that direct cost savings (64 per cent) or indirect cost savings through waste reduction and sustainability measures (57 per cent) were their top objectives for smart manufacturing, followed by improvements in customer experience (39 per cent). Objectives such as reduced time to market (34 per cent) and increased revenue (29 per cent) came lower down the list of priorities.

However, 70 per cent of respondents said they were making ‘slow to minimal’ progress on their plans.

When asked what barriers stood in their way, more than half (57 per cent) identified ‘organisational resistance to change’ as the top challenge, followed by integrating IT with operational technology (34 per cent) and technical debt and legacy equipment (30 per cent).

Prashant Kelker, Partner at ISG Digital Strategy Solutions, said:

“The challenge of turning a traditional shop floor into a hybrid connected workplace is daunting but doable. Everyone wants to change, no one wants to be changed.”

As Geoff Crossley, Senior Manufacturing Advisor at GC Business Growth Hub, has explained in a previous blog, the importance of involving employees in any digitalisation project cannot be underestimated:

“It’s vital that employees are involved from the start in any discussion about what may change in their process. If they are excluded from those discussions, they may get the wrong idea about what digitalisation means for them and they could fight against it.

“Sadly, people often fear digitalisation will take their job, making them resistant (whether consciously or unconsciously) to any changes – in their minds, if a digitalisation project fails, management will eventually abandon their efforts and therefore their jobs will be secure. I’ve previously covered this very scenario in my blog on Using Compassion in Manufacturing.

“It’s critical for leaders to understand these fears and demonstrate that the digital transformation process is an opportunity for employees to upgrade their expertise, so they too are fit for the employment marketplace of the future.”

For advice and support on preparing your workforce for smarter manufacturing and digitalisation, contact our Manufacturing Service today.

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