Digital work instructions can be an essential component of your Industry 4.0 strategy. However, when adopted for the wrong reasons, they can completely derail your digital transformation efforts and end up hurting your operations. After talking with hundreds of manufacturers and working with our customers, we’ve noticed the most successful ones adopt digital work instructions for a very particular reason above all else. What is that reason? Before revealing it, it is worth going over some reasons that, on their own, are not good enough to adopt them.
Going paperless is a worthy goal. It saves the environment, and it saves your company thousands of dollars in paper and printing costs. However, on its own, it is not enough to justify an investment in digital work instructions software. Merely having paperless versions of your current instructions just changes the medium, but does not add any real value such as data collection, quality defect reduction or faster employee training to move the needle in your organization.
Going digital for the sake of going digital will not get you anywhere. Going digital shouldn’t be an end in itself, but rather a means towards an end. Your digital transformation needs to be tied to business goals for it to have any lasting impact on your organization. If your digital initiatives are not linked to business goals, then you will end up with flashy screens and software that no one uses. You will never see a return on your investment.
Showing your boss or investors that you are ‘innovative’ by covering the shop floor with touchscreens might get you a short-term pat on the back. However, in the medium to long-term, going digital just to look trendy will most likely backfire. Your team will not adopt the new technology just because it looks good. We’ve visited several manufacturers that went down this road and now their shop floor full of unused tablets. Since they never saw a return on investment, everyone in their team is now skeptical of digital transformation efforts.
If all you only want to go paperless, digital or be trendy, you don’t need to invest in new systems. You can probably use your existing tools such as Microsoft Powerpoint and free tools such as Google Docs to create your work instructions, PDF to turn them into static files and Dropbox or similar to host them and manage the version control.
What is the single best reason to go digital?
So, if going paperless, going digital or being innovative are not good enough reasons, then what is? As you can probably already tell, the single best reason to go digital is that you want to achieve a business goal. It’s that simple.
Digital efforts that are not tied to the bottom line, just don’t get the necessary resources to get off the ground. This is the difference between a “nice to have” and “must have.” Tying your digital transformation to a tangible business objective lets you make a business case for your initiative. When people see the business case, they are more likely to collaborate with you and support it, both from above and below.
One of the main reasons digital transformation initiatives fail is because people resist change. Operators, line managers, plant managers and so on, refuse to learn new ways to do things. Furthermore, all organizations have complex political situations that must be overcome when trying to do a change initiative. The best way to overcome this resistance is to provide everyone with the right incentives. Tying the digital effort to a business goal overcomes this resistance by aligning everyone towards a goal they can all agree on: improving the business.
Digital transformation initiatives often get a bad reputation because their champions fail to show a return on investment. The best way to prevent this from happening is to tie your initiative to a clear business objective from the outset. This will let you identify more clearly the needs of your organization and therefore make a better decision concerning the appropriate solution to meet those needs.
Before deciding to digitize your work instructions and choosing a digital work instruction software provider, make sure you are not merely doing so for the sake of looking innovative, going paperless or being digital. Think about what business objectives you are trying to meet so that you can find the best solution for your needs.