Manufacturing has been experiencing an era of acceleration, forcing businesses intent on keeping up to adopt strategies that enable flexibility and resilience.

A composable or agile approach has become a necessity for manufacturers contending with major market shifts including constant technological development, workforce transformation, additional access to information, and a rapidly evolving environment.

Although “agile” is a loosely used buzzword, often dissociated from its real meaning and principles, agile implementation represents a significant competitive advantage to manufacturers who don’t just want to survive these shifts, but to thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Doubt over the unknown, particularly as it relates to demonstrating time-to-value, is one of the main impediments preventing businesses from taking the first step toward the digital transformation of their operations, potentially causing them to lose out on growth opportunities as a result.

Regarding growth opportunities, Gartner reported that by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new initiative implementation.

This brief, but practical guide attempts to demystify the process behind agile implementation so that your frontline operations team is ready to capitalize on opportunities as they arise.

Step 1: Create Goals

Before you start, you should develop small and achievable goals that align with your organization’s culture and purpose, giving workers a clear objective that they understand and use as a driver for action.

Implementing a new system, process, or almost any new aspect in your production line is almost always somewhat challenging, but with pilots, you can see early value before full implementation takes place over time. To build the pilots, you must first identify your priority pain points, with each pilot solving one critical pain.

Step 2: Gather Your Team

Agile culture is human-centric, putting people at the center with accountability, transparency and collaboration as fundamental values. The company culture should be strongly rooted in the organization’s purpose, because employees who feel personally involved with their work tend to innovate more. Augment your workforce by leveraging industry 4.0 apps to develop technical solutions autonomously, cutting out reliance on IT and external vendors, while simultaneously stimulating creativity.

Step 3: Implement in Sprints

Focus on your goal and begin implementing quick actions toward that goal while identifying strategic improvements that could also help. Celebrate success and learn. Take a breath between sprints. The ability to conduct rapid cycles allows frontline operations staff to use real-time data to work on goals over short periods of time and create a productive feedback loop that informs their next pilots.

Step 4: Iterate and Improve

Identify strategic improvements that will help you towards your goal by deploying short pilots that reveal issues throughout production. Address these challenges as they arise by rapidly building, testing, failing, and continuing to iterate towards your goal, while simultaneously reviewing the progress and refining the vision. The utilization of Industry 4.0 tech improves flow and organization, with no-code and cloud-based tools that enable the next level of flexibility, resulting in step changes in productivity.

Steps to effective agile implementation

Agile’s Competitive Edge

Agile gives manufacturers a competitive edge by increasing resilience in response to disruptive events, workforce transformation, customization, and cloud adoption. Manufacturers can prioritize simplicity, but shouldn’t fear the complex aspects, either. To become a truly successful agile manufacturer, you will need to adopt complex technologies like this, and to fully benefit from an agile approach, you’ll need to scale to the entire organization. That’s because the best solutions and improvements are found when business people, engineers, and workers are all in touch.

Pilot Pitfalls

A pitfall to look out for is getting stuck in the proof of concept stage, or pilot purgatory, as a tongue-in-cheek industry term used to describe the inability to advance beyond the pilot stage to the next stage of testing. To avoid this analysis paralysis, it’s always a good idea to initially demonstrate the value of an agile transformation in a smaller context by selecting a specific, quantifiable use case or application that will yield good numbers for the KPIs it targets.

You should note that if your proof of concept is not successful, it doesn’t mean you should call off your whole digital transformation initiative. It might simply mean that the tool you tested is not a good fit for your operations. Simply try again.

By emphasizing rapid iteration, operator augmentation, operational flexibility, and bottom-up innovation, agile manufacturing enables a fast response to customer demands while empowering workers to innovate. Manufacturers can invite agility into their organizations by adopting the right technologies that improve their unique processes, workers, and products.

Although agile is not a rigid approach, it’s also not the anti-plan, which means you should pull inspiration from the projects and experiences that have been successful for others and create a plan that works best for you.

How to get started with Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform:

No-code capabilities help those closest to operations to create apps that drive the productivity of their team and the quality of their output while collecting real-time data to continuously improve over time.

We’ve provided ways in which our customers can get started and experience time-to-value quickly. With Tulip’s Library of downloadable apps, app suites, and connectors, companies can empower those closest to operations to accelerate their continuous improvement and digital transformation efforts, and gain real-time visibility into the people, tools, machines, and processes involved — all in a matter of hours.

As a next-generation MES alternative, Tulip is cloud-based, multi-site, and innovative — enabling local problem-solving and democratizing powerful technology, while centralizing the controls needed to govern the company and its data.

Manufacturing can continue to learn from agile principles of software development as the industry continues to digitize. Agile is about getting started, learning and iterating.

Just start!

Tulip’s flexible and intuitive Frontline Operations Platform is designed to help organizations become agile. Using Tulip, engineers can create applications that guide operators and collect data from the people, machines, and processes involved in production. Start applying the key phases of agile manufacturing to your factory floor with a 30-day free trial.

Stuck in pilot purgatory?

Let us help you get unstuck with agile. Tulip’s flexible and intuitive Frontline Operations Platform meets workers where they are to identify critical problems and start improving immediately.

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