Jonas van Thiel, Chief Expert in IoT Business and Affairs
More efficient, faster and more transparent – digital store management in the store has greatly simplified on-site management. At the same time, it can reduce the concrete handling of processes and problems in the field. New guidance methods are needed to prevent this.
Hardly any word rumor currently employs production executives in this country as powerfully as managing digital stores. No wonder, because it provides huge benefits to manufacturing companies by collecting data from the production process directly from the source and automatically passing it along and enriching it. Gone are the days of manually documenting, carefully gathering and merging information from various jobs in an area.
However, what is overlooked most of the time is that the digitization and partial automation of these previously analogous activities have changed the way employees and managers handle the processes themselves – in a way that contradicts the original idea of "local leadership".
With digital overload system
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The pressure on companies to make manufacturing and logistics processes more efficient continues to grow. The result is often island solutions quickly introduced. A standardized procedure model for systematic path development offers a cure.
Remote monitoring instead of local problem solving
Instead of examining the processes on the spot, those responsible for the process get the numbers, data, and facts online directly from the computer on the network – without having to go through a "tour" through employees. Automated information cascades and the level of escalation deviation provide the right information in the right place at all times – a key requirement for effective control in a digital factory.
But this "remote monitoring" using digital tools cannot completely replace the presence and communication at the point of value creation or the experience and intuition of long-time employees. Lack of primary experience and direct judgment threaten misinterpretations and misconceptions.
Leader 4.0 becomes management without leading positions, in terms of "exception management", instead of being proactive and focused on point-of-sale problem management – as originally the focus of store management.
Alienation from our own processes
But these behavioral changes are not only influenced by executives – even masters, operators and installers tend to work less intensively on the field processes as soon as data from their own work area is automatically recorded and submitted.
Because instead of personal reporting and "defending" your own numbers, there are definite lumps of information and automatic escalation reports. This alienation from one's own area of responsibility is fatal: for those who do not deal with their own key personalities, it is also not concerned with solving problems.
Flexibility versus automation
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Anyone who thinks of Industry 4.0 often sees cyber-physical systems ahead of them that automatically work their way through human-free production. But without people, it doesn't work – it's the only way to combine automation and flexibility.
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This practice of "uncontrolled process control", as it is found in many places today, is in stark contrast to Lean principles, which aim to understand the process as much as possible and continuously.
Unless intensive on-site process testing is done, the real causes of the problem are often not found and the process of continuous improvement is declining. Digital technologies can really be useful in this context – but only if they are based on a lean routine.
This especially includes "analog virtues" such as on-site troubleshooting and personal consultation with showroom employees. Digital management of the store, which prevents precisely these elements, is absurd.
Counter concept for "guided process control"
Companies face similar challenges to the introduction of lean manufacturing. Back then, it's not just about introducing tools and methods, it's about changing employees' behaviors so sustainably that they actually live the philosophy behind it.
For example, in the case of digital store management, this means employees use the freedom and time savings gained by eliminating manual documentation duties to systematically promote problem solving and further develop local processes.
This is the only way to ensure that the use of DSFM actually has a positive effect on the quality of the process. In this context, leadership means creating awareness and framework conditions so that employees can make the most of their potential that is released in the interest of continuously improving the process.
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Timeline for troubleshooting
This requires sensitization and empowerment, especially of roles within the company, which have previously been occupied with administrative tasks in the context of process control and should assume a creative and oriented function in the future.
However, training and further education measures alone are not sufficient. Instead, constant routines should be put in place to solve problems and further develop processes – similar to agile working models – to ensure a true Lean-Digital philosophy in the long run. Fixed, regular meetings in terms of a "problem-solving timeframe" create the opportunity with which executives give their employees time to work toward achieving their process goals.
A man at the heart of value creation
One thing is for sure: managing digital stores is an indispensable step in establishing an efficient, continuous flow of information in modern manufacturing environments. However, it can only reach its full potential if employees, especially masters, play an active role as problem solvers and process developers. Then digital store management offers real added value for optimizing the production system.
If this is not the case, it is just a tool for short-term employee release, which in the worst case can even block further development of the production system.
As far back as Industry 4.0, digital store management emphasizes the role of human beings as a value-added guide in increasingly automated manufacturing environments. If its field of action changes, as described above, there is a great opportunity to reinterpret and improve its role. The central role of leadership in the digital manufacturing environment is to empower employees to take on and complete this new role.
ROI Training Day, October 25 in Munich
Impulses and practical tips for targeted lean, digital and agility qualifications in your company! ROI Training Training 2019, October 25, offers you a unique platform for learning and networking. They will select two of the four interactive workshop pulses on Shopfloor Management, Lean Digital Circuit Simulation, Data Analysis and Agile Collaboration. In addition, ROI-trained Lean Digital Managers report on their challenges and solutions within their own company. Use the event to share experiences with colleagues and experts.
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