Scaling a pilot project to the larger manufacturing organization is a transformative experience for every user. That’s not meant to be a scare tactic—it’s just a fact. And with such transformative repercussions on the line, that means it’s important you’re not merely tactically checking off functionalities and comparing available technology. If you’re too focused on the technical do’s and don’ts of various platforms and comparing case studies and vendor capabilities (and if historical IT trends are any precedent) you can expect your program to join the 50 percent of large-scale projects that eventually fail.
Scaling an M4.0 project is only viable and valuable when you take the time (preferably beforehand) to apply your pilot learnings to unresolved business challenges and align with strategic objectives. Without this, you may be in for a world of pain: poor adoption, unmet objectives, and resistance from every level of management – basically a failed investment into a doomed project. Even the most successful pilot can falter when it comes to broader rollout and expansion if it’s not inherently designed to scale well within the business itself and enjoys executive buy-in and clear intent from the start.
Previously, we discussed how M4.0 pilot programs wind up in purgatory and suggested tips on how to avoid this. Now, we have recommendations on how to scale your M4.0 pilot for expanded use and realize the best results along the way. There are four key actions we’ll discuss: developing intent, engaging fully, applying governance, and managing change along the way.
Of course, you need to state your project intent before even investing in a pilot of any kind; however, the learnings gained and natural changes the business, or the pilot project itself, may go through can adjust your path in good or bad, planned or unpredicted, ways. After completing the pilot, the next natural step is to evaluate its intent, both at the outset and upon close (side note—all pilots must have a targeted and firm completion date!). To do this, you’ll need to fully analyze your pilot results and build trust in the data. Look at cause and effects for successes and misses, do some A/B testing to establish hypotheses around events and outcomes, and use the numbers and facts to guide your next move—don’t just rely on gut feelings or unquantifiable sentiments from the team; the data is how you will know for certain what worked, what didn’t, and why. Introducing conjecture or false assumptions into the mix will very quickly derail the trust you can place in your pilot outcomes and misguide your focus.
Armed with that information, you can determine your intent. If the pilot failed to meet expectations, salvage learnings from the experience and reset your approach for future projects or an iteration down the line. If the pilot has been green-lit for further expansion, make sure you are not still operating in “pilot mode.” This means moving from pilot mode to a large-scale rollout and not just viewing the project as a never-ending test or experiment. You’ll need to clearly define the timeline and path to proven value as you scale the pilot and make sure these goals align with strategy, resourcing, and budgeting considerations.
Another action item for scaling M4.0 projects is to make sure you and your stakeholders engage fully with the rollout. For starters, this means you have to build on your stated intent and create a clear value path. This is a roadmap that uses project language, adopts project structure and methodologies, and identifies incremental and end-state value drivers (e.g. partial automation efficiencies, operational streamlining, or staff expansion capabilities). You should have prioritized and sequential rollouts mapped out, understand the dependencies and impacts of each one, and select a reputable vendor to execute on these alongside you.
Additionally, part of engaging fully means researching other M4.0 projects and applying the relevant learnings to your own. With this knowledge, you should be able to apply it to your larger messaging strategy as a way to sell constituents and users on the anticipated changes. Creating champions and engaging your constituents is key to sending a message of ownership and change, so use whichever communication channels are at your disposal to dispel any thoughts that may exist around your M4.0 transformation project being transient or forgotten. Announce your intent, share your findings openly, and get the team at large excited for what’s coming. You can start here, looking at Simplus’ Adoption Accelerator and LPO Method.
The next must-do for the successful scaling of an M4.0 project is strong governance. A governance model is a symbol of commitment to the success of any business initiative, removing any notion that failure is an option or that ownership is lacking. There must be a clear way to track ownership and accountability of each relevant project deliverable.
Consider establishing a 4.0 Center of Excellence, a select group of proven team members who stay constantly informed on M4.0 trends and technologies, research and apply best practices, keep expectations in check, manage or influence communications, and make sure the project stays the organizational strategic path toward intended outcomes.
You should also continuously study your data and act on the results to make your governance strategy data-driven. This means you have to ensure data quality: remove the anomalies or “data noise” and identify any blind spots in the data that are preventing confident decision making. You can’t base predictions and make informed decisions if your data is compromised. Take all the necessary steps to guarantee its quality and accuracy. And finally, look for parallel or supporting organizational opportunities—do your findings provide insights into additional challenges beyond the business objectives that the pilot was designed to solve?
Lastly, it’s crucial that you have a definitive change management strategy in place for scaling M4.0 projects. These projects tend to bring considerable changes (and big emotions) to your team members. A communication strategy that closes the feedback loop and gives concerns a way to be heard and acted upon will help mitigate apprehension risk. Consider a dedicated email, suggestion box on the factory floor, or other channels to collect feedback with a listening ear.
One of the key goals of change management, especially in manufacturing, is to transition “doers” to “thinkers.” This means your end users aren’t just using the new process or platform, but they’re also articulating constructive feedback and communicating this feedback in a way that aligns back to the defined goals. Make sure your change management strategy resonates with each persona group so each business unit feels their suggestions are heard and being considered for incorporation in future iterations.
You should also consider how the impact of your M4.0 project may spread externally: are there partner or customer experience changes? Be prepared to guide not just your internal team but also partners and customers through any new platforms, processes, and branding.
Taking your initial pilot program to the big stage is a challenging undertaking—but it’s also a testament to how well the technology is aligned to strategic company-wide objectives. Throughout the challenges and roadblocks, remember that initial flicker of excitement you witnessed as the pilot took off and won support from the top-down. If you stay focused on the high-level objectives and ensure your pilot rolls out in accordance with those, your hard work will pay off. Reach out to Simplus today for added support navigating the tricky waters of change management and training along the way.