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Today, I see the digitization of product and process development through an unexpected lens of marketing, known as the jobs-to-be-done theory. While not directly parallel, I like to apply this theory to transformation efforts because I believe success comes through clearly understanding customers' needs as addressable “jobs.” Instead of just delivering technology products or services, we need to first listen and learn. The job-to-be-done in manufacturing, is not simply the output of a sum of parts or processes, but instead, positive impact. The impact of manufacturing is what makes it matter, and therefore should inform our digital transformation efforts today.
At Whirlpool Corporation, we believe manufacturing is in the process of undergoing innovative enhancements that will enable organizational capabilities throughout the entire value chain, from initial concept to product development and design, and finally through execution. When we embarked on our digital transformation efforts in manufacturing, we asked ourselves: “What does that mean and what are we changing? Who are our customers and what do they need?” Through analysis and strategic reflection, we defined what positive impact looks like, visualized a roadmap for how to get there, and then built a mechanism for collaboration.
It is well known that developing a standard for continuous improvement leads to repeatable results. I believe the same applies to industrial digital transformation. With that in mind, I wanted to document and share what I learned when building up our industrial digital transformation methodology. The elements that make up this framework are: Purpose, Awareness, and Passion.
We began our transformational framework by revisiting our “Why.” At Whirlpool Corporation our vision is to be “the best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home.” Through the vision—a common purpose—we could both globally and locally align our initiatives with this centering theme.
Additionally, reflecting on our purpose gives us an emotional connector to assess our future state. In other words, if you embark on transformation but do not know why you are doing it, then you are likely to end up somewhere you did not expect. Purpose also means that you bring a collective group together to the future state. With these ideas in mind, we outlined our foundational needs as data connectivity, data-driven cultural mindset, and process enablers.
After asking “Why” and getting to a centralizing theme, you have to use that purpose to create awareness and focus on the impact you need to make. In the past, typical initiatives on the future of manufacturing centered around the application of latest technological trends. Use cases are generated, new technologies are explored, then pilots are ramped-up that frequently end in the common excuse we hear these days - “pilot purgatory.” This approach does not work. With this typical approach we know a vast majority of firms will apply technology, but with a significant portion not achieving impact or delivering results long-term.
The way out is first to acknowledge that there’s no such thing as pilot purgatory, instead, we are forgetting to build and leverage problem solving skills. A structured method to become aware of the addressable needs or, “jobs-to-be-done” by manufacturing teams is critical to building transformation. We need to empower teams with a metrics-driven approach that allows us to build a roadmap to what our future state will deliver.
The next level of manufacturing is about transformation and change. Sometimes this is called disruptive technology, IIoT, automation or Industry 4.0. In classical Lean, Kaizen is about continuous improvement and positive change. It is rooted in building problem solving capabilities with a metrics-driven approach. Our aim in industrial digital transformation should be consistent with improvement philosophy.
Another factor to accelerate on next level manufacturing is a commonly forgotten element: Empathy. As we defined and outlined our future state, we realized we kept circling back to the role people play in transformation. It starts with empathy for our consumers’ needs and continues through building teams that understand this applies to manufacturing as well. We focused our efforts on building our people with both technical capabilities and collaborative creativity. An organization is made up by people. If people are left out of your transformation roadmap, it can literally lead to a future state with no one.
Beyond purpose and awareness, the future of manufacturing agility resides in unlocking our best and top assets. We can unlock human capital through building a passion for problem solving, improving capabilities, and fully leveraging teamwork. Key elements to enable this capability include: Focused training, honest organizational maturity assessments, common data skills, and elimination of data silos. Without data friction in our efforts, we can leverage digital thread and concurrent product engineering to deliver for our customers. Passion empowers teams to deliver the best products with the best processes to meet our customer needs. Empowered teams will find a way to leverage technology in manufacturing to increase productivity, reduce lead-time, and fully reinvent your value chain.