Overcoming Change Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry

Lionel Grealou Leadership Manufacturing PLM 2 minutes

Change is becoming a way of life across the manufacturing industry. Even very traditional sectors can no longer afford to stay still. The stimuli are both internal and external

1) Change typically comes from outside

Change is often imposed, mandatory to gain and sustain competitive advantage. It required a compelling business case with direct and indirect benefits of making a change. Why does the change need to happen? Why does it matter for each stakeholder? What would be the implications of doing nothing vs implementing the change? What needs to happen to ‘make it real‘?

The manufacturing industry is facing multiple change requirements combined from:

  • Increasingly tighter legislation
  • Increasing customer expectations and requirements
  • Increasing cost pressures from global outsourcing
  • Wider global competition
  • Increasing number of product launches
  • Fast changing technologies
  • New operating and commercial models

2) Change involves people

Getting the people element right is critical to successfully delivering effective change, but how is this done in practice? Change requires a common vision at a sufficient level for all stakeholders, especially the people who are going to drive the change, and those who are going to be, directly or indirectly, impacted by the change. What are the current state and future state? What is the level of engagement of the relevant stakeholders? How is the change implementation progress communicated by the change agents? How are the impacted communities engaged in implementing the change?

Mapping stakeholders (e.g. power / interest) to understand how to influence the change is critical to ensure successful implementation and deployment. In the manufacturing industry, this will translate in involvement of various functional groups (Engineering Centers of Competencies, sales and marketing, finance, manufacturing, etc.) working toward a common New Process Development (NPD) set of objectives.

Typical people related challenges include:

  • Resistance to change, especially from traditional function groups
  • Redistribution of knowledge and skills
  • Time consuming organization change management
  • Training effectiveness
  • Lengthy transition and complex dual operations

 3) Change requires leadership

The amount of change that an organization is going through can be overwhelming. It is necessary to be realistic about how much change parts of the organization can cope with. However, the real value comes from when change management considerations are in-built in all program management roles.

Success will highly depend on selecting the right change partner. Success criteria will not only relate to knowledge, experience or expertise, as some of those changes have never been implemented before or require new solutions that did not previously exist. Success criteria be include adaptabilityflexibilitypragmatismcreative thinkingproblem solving, ability to learn and educate others about the new ways, ability to influence and overcome cultural barriers. These are the traits of change leaders becoming change agentsand make best use of their ability to influence others.

Hence the importance of a deliberate focus on change leadership in delivering the promised benefits of change. It is also about getting the people-process-technology equation right.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 18 July 2015.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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