Feb 8, 2021

Gartner: 5 best practices for post-COVID innovation

Georgia Wilson
3 min
Smart manufacturing, innovation and industry 4.0
Manufacturing Global takes a look at Gartner’s five best practices for manufacturing operations leaders for post-COVID-19 innovation...

With 50% of factory work expected to be done remotely by 2024, COVID-19 has only increased the investments made by manufacturers into smart manufacturing capabilities. 

“But manufacturing operations leaders struggle in an era of continuous disruption to identify, pilot and scale digital technologies and new ways of working,” commented Gartner.

As a result the consultant company closely studied organisations that have “successfully cultivated and delivered innovations across their factories and plants,” identifying five best practices for a systematic approach to delivering innovations post-COVID-19.

The challenges of innovation

“Manufacturers are at a significant crossroads. Factories must not only support organisational endeavors for agility and growth, but they must also manage the ongoing impacts and risks of COVID-19,” noted Gartner. 

Challenges for manufacturing operations leaders when it comes to innovation include:

  • Innovating at scale, with repeatable performance that enables organisations to move faster
  • Generating awareness of successful innovation
  • Identifying which sites are ready to adopt, or would benefit from innovative technologies and new ways of working
  • Governing innovation management
  • Scaling pilots

“Short-term measures to navigate the crisis can only last so long before more strategic, new ways of working and manufacturing need to be established. Put another way, scaling innovation is not episodic; it is cyclical. It requires a deliberate approach to identifying opportunities to innovate, pilot and make successes known, and then to transfer,” added Gartner. “Ultimately, without scaling, innovation will not deliver its full value. It is mission critical for manufacturing operations leaders to overcome the challenges to scaling innovation in an era of continuous disruption.”

Gartner’s Five Best Practices for Post-COVID-19 Innovation

  1. Aligning smart manufacturing efforts with workplace transformation: Gartner identified that “digitalising manual and offline tasks will not only improve capacity utilisation but also will be a platform for developing new factory worker capabilities.” 
  2. Reduce resistance to change: following a gradual rollout plan, to adapt to social distancing, Gartner also identified the need to “explore and evaluate options with high-impact potential, and focus on the critical paths and core processes first.”
  3. Align innovation operationalisation with the production system: to ensure site readiness and prioritisation, “in a post-COVID-19 era, lean workforces in particular will need new metrics that integrate with the existing ways factories are managed,” added Gartner.
  4. Create demand for successful innovation: In addition to the above, Gartner found that companies should “enable project leads to share their direct experiences with peer groups and stakeholders” as well as “Attract a project sponsor from senior leadership to stay apprised and informed of initiatives.”
  5. Connect Syncornisation with continuous improvements: in doing this, Garntner stated that organisations can “ensure hand-offs, eliminate competition for resources and expose further efficiencies,” as well as identifying that HR could be a good partner to assess new required skills.

Factory Innovation Post-COVID-19: 5 Best Practices for Manufacturing Operations Leaders

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May 12, 2021

Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers

2 min
57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support smart manufacturing digitalisation

With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.

While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.

“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.

“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”

Change Management

Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.

“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.

Technology and People

While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.

“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.

Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.

Discover Gartner's Five Best Practices for Post COVID-19 Innovation' in manufacturing.

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