In recent years, the manufacturing business landscape has undergone significant transformation as a result of supply chain disruptions, fluctuating consumer demand, and rapidly changing workforce dynamics.

As a result, manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways to adapt and optimize their production processes to ensure that they fulfill orders effectively and efficiently. Therefore, it’s important for manufacturers to refine their operations to make the most of their available space, materials, machines, and labor.

One of the core business practices that manufacturers implement when operating in an increasingly dynamic business environment is change management.

In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of change management in manufacturing and how businesses are approaching their change management initiatives with a focus on empowering their workforce to overcome a rapidly evolving business environment.

What is change management in manufacturing?

Change management refers to the different processes and protocols manufacturers implement to keep their businesses productive and profitable in the face of significant organizational or industry changes.

This concept is essential because manufacturing businesses face several challenges that significantly impact production. For example, many manufacturing businesses are still facing material shortages due to the supply chain disruption as an after-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, economic uncertainty is adding an additional layer of stress on businesses operating in today’s environment.

In light of such significant changes and operational disruptions, manufacturers must adjust how they manage their business to survive in the post-pandemic era.

Alternatively, businesses can initiate change management procedures due to internal conditions. This is particularly important as the Great Resignation has resulted in an entire generation of workers retiring and a new generation of workers entering the industry to replace them.

This new wave of workforce participants requires significant training, but with demand at an all-time high, most businesses are struggling to ramp up employees quickly enough.

Ultimately, businesses need to invest heavily in their change management programs to deal with these environmental changes. Doing so will allow manufacturers to pivot quickly, allowing businesses to maintain productivity despite the significant challenges they’re set to face in the coming years.

The importance of change management

As the saying goes, “Change is the only constant in life”. We’ve seen significant volatility in the manufacturing industry over the past several years, from supply chain disruptions to workforce transitions and various technological innovations that have caused businesses to rethink their production processes.

Investing in change management allows manufacturers to future-proof their operations and succeed through any change they may face.

However, the absence of change management within a company presents a situation where employees aren’t on the same page when implementing changes. This unsystematic approach sets the business back, lowering productivity, worker morale, and customer satisfaction.

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Best practices in manufacturing change management

Here’s how manufacturers can more effectively implement change in their production operations:

Recognize the need for change: Manufacturers should assess their operations and understand the areas that are at the greatest risk for disruption.

Managers should analyze the internal systems and processes that drive the business, as well as external factors that may influence business continuity and consumer demand. This exercise should reveal areas that pose risks to the business, necessitating the need for proactive and effective change.

Create a detailed plan for change: Plans for potential interventions must be comprehensive, providing details on how the change will be implemented and over what period of time.

Details should also include potential risks resulting from the new changes. For example, new strategies might fix one issue and, at the same time, affect other facets of the manufacturing business negatively.

Furthermore, a detailed plan features exhaustive documentation like updated standard operating procedures. This ensures that the workers can adapt to the changes in process effectively.

Obtain support from the leadership team: While many organizational changes can often occur from the bottom-up, it’s important to receive buy-in from business leaders to scale these changes across the company.

Support from executives ensures that the other rungs on the organizational ladder accept the changes and provide implementation support and assistance when needed.

Clear communication with employees: In many instances, changes to standardized systems and processes can be unsettling to employees. When a business wants to implement new solutions to augment processes, workers will likely wonder how these changes will impact their day-to-day work.

Oftentimes, a lack of communication will hamper implementation because employees haven’t bought into the new initiative. Therefore, involving workers in the process is imperative to ensure proper adoption and implementation.

The role of digitization in manufacturing change management

Successfully implementing effective change management in a modern manufacturing setting requires a digital approach. In order to understand the internal business areas that require evaluation and potential change, manufacturers require a means to collect and analyze production data in real-time.

Using a platform like Tulip, businesses can connect the people, systems, and machines that power their operations to gain a holistic view of everything happening across their shop floor. This enables supervisors to identify areas of opportunity and address challenges more quickly to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, these tools allow businesses to respond more quickly to external factors that require a change in production. Using digital solutions, businesses are able to better forecast changes in consumer demand, improve material management, and upskill employees more effectively, providing a level of flexibility that enables businesses to overcome any challenge they might experience.

An Augmented Lean approach to change management

While digital solutions provide manufacturers with the necessary tools to adapt to changing conditions, they’re not the end-all-be-all when it comes to change management.

In today’s business environment, manufacturers require a human-centric approach to change management that empowers workers with the skills and tools they need to overcome the challenges they face in their day-to-day work.

We’re advocates of the Augmented Lean methodology which promotes a hybrid approach balancing traditional top-down influence from managers and supervisors with bottoms-up insights from operators actually conducting the work.

Tulip helps to facilitate this Augmented Lean approach to manufacturing by providing a platform for frontline workers to build the tools and solutions they need using no-code, IoT-connected applications. By leveraging real-time data, operators can quickly adapt to evloving conditions and implement changes that help them carry out their work more efficiently.

If you’re interested in learning how Tulip can help improve the way you approach change management in your organization, reach out to a member of our team today!

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