Why leadership needs to drive digital transformation in manufacturing beyond the COVID-19 crisis and how to sustain it successfully.

By Jacques Matthee, Products Director, CCi

It’s no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of business – and done so in record time. Over the past 18+ months, the impact of lockdowns and the need to socially distance have pushed consumers, employees and suppliers online. While the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution – or digital age – was already well underway before COVID-19, the pandemic has fast-tracked digital transformation in manufacturing at an unprecedented speed.

As we approach 2022, manufacturers need to accept that certain changes to the world of work, namely remote working and online customer engagement, are here to stay. What’s more, organizations will have to contend with elevated levels of uncertainty and market unpredictability for the foreseeable future. Advanced technologies have proven their abilities to help businesses navigate and survive this changed landscape. It’s now time for organizations to sustain their digital gains beyond survival and embed them into their processes and practices going forward.

Advanced Technologies Have Proven Ther Abilities To Help Organizations Navigate The Changing Business Landscape, Industry Today
Advanced technologies have proven their abilities to help organizations navigate the changing business landscape.

Why good leaders are key to sustaining digital transformation in manufacturing

The most successful instances of digital transformation in manufacturing all share one thing in common: a united leadership committed to achieving their organization’s objectives. The reality is that no matter how smart an organization’s software is or how innovative its tech tools are, unless it has the right people leading and sustaining its migration, its efforts will fail.

Permanent changes to the world of work such as having to interact with colleagues and engage with consumers online calls for a type of leader that is just as advanced as the enabling technologies. Simply put, to harness the benefits of digital transformation (improved efficiency, agility and transparency – to name but a few) for long-term success requires specific attitudes and behaviors from the top.

What good leadership looks like

Talent is without a doubt a determining factor when it comes to successful – and sustainable – digital transformation. Manufacturers looking to capitalize on their digital transformation wins so far need to ensure that their leaders and employees realize the permanence of changes wrought by the pandemic and are ready and able to keep going.

Here are four vital components of leaders geared to thrive, not just survive.

1. Striving for continuous improvement

A continuous improvement (CI) culture is characterized by an integrated workplace that includes all employees in designing and driving performance improvements in the best interests of the organization. Leaders play a crucial role in CI development by encouraging their teams to think outside the box, work together as well as with other teams and take ownership of their initiatives from ideation to implementation. A CI driven workplace embraces positive change and works together as one to update processes and practices accordingly. Digital transformation in manufacturing thrives in CI led organizations as all employees are on board with the shift and support its success.

2. Promoting skills development

The rapid pace of digital transformation in manufacturing has created a digital skills gap that is widening. An often overlooked approach is for an organization to focus on its in-house resources and capabilities before investing in external solutions. Leaders are best placed to identify the strengths and weaknesses within their teams, and thus can contribute sensibly to the tech decision-making process – as well as promote the most appropriate upskilling and training opportunities.

3. Attracting the right talent

The right people to help manufacturers sustain their digital gains do not necessarily need to be digital mavens. Good leaders know the people on their teams well and can drive talent acquisition both from within and without the organization. Most people want to advance in their careers, develop new skills and grow in tandem with their employers’ growth. What’s more, a manufacturer with a reputation for leadership that supports employee development will organically attract top talent from outside the organization.

4. Maintaining momentum

The ongoing upheaval caused by the pandemic has understandably sapped many people’s energy and focus – business leaders included. Remote working has also left some employees feeling isolated and/or excluded. As 2021 draws to a close and people take much-needed leave to reboot for the new year, leaders need to highlight the successes and gains made by their teams and share them company-wide. In fact, this should be done at regular intervals throughout the year. Reward, recognition, collaboration and checking in on each other are crucial to keeping people committed, engaged and energized.

The COVID-19 crisis has redefined business forever. Successful instances of digital transformation in manufacturing are to be lauded. However, the journey continues as the new, permanently changed world of work emerges to challenge organizations even further. Those that will thrive on the road ahead understand the importance of their people in harnessing the power of advanced technologies.

Download Digital Operating Systems: The organisational need for guidance to find out how to design and undertake a digital transformation journey for future sustainability in a fast-moving world.

CCi is a privately held global company that enables organizations to deliver sustainable results across the supply chain through TRACC, a continuous improvement solution.

Jacques Matthee Cci, Industry Today
Jacques Matthee

Jacques Matthee is Products Director at CCi. Jacques’s areas of expertise include digital transformation strategy, software solution architecture and design, BI and analytics, business capability planning and development, cybersecurity, cloud technologies, process automation, agile practices, design thinking, journey mapping and innovation strategy. Jacques holds a BCom in Informatics, a postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration and a number of IT certifications.

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