September 10th, 2020

As opposed to 30+ years ago, the lean manufacturing methodology is no longer unheard of in the manufacturing industry. Today, it’s one of the more common approaches in supply chain management. But one thing is certain: Attempting to implement lean manufacturing and actually implementing it are two very different things. That’s because the manufacturing industry is tasked with a constant shift in consumer demand, and the five principles of lean manufacturing can only be realized when digital transformation has taken hold within the organization. Oddly enough, that’s where HR comes in. 

Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

According to a recent report, 86% of manufacturers have appointed digital transformation leaders. This need is best illustrated in the tire industry, a space in which the steps necessary to achieve digital transformation are regularly discussed in interviews with industry leaders. Take Paolo Ferrari as an example. As the President and CEO of Bridgestone Americas (formerly EMEA), he explains in an interview that there’s a massive cultural shift in the organization as they attempt to transition from a product-focused manufacturing company to a “brilliant mobility solutions provider.” He further explains that this new direction takes team members outside of their comfort zone. For instance, product engineers who have been with the company for years are now being introduced to Big Data, AI, cloud-based applications, and SaaS.

The #1 Reason Digital Transformation Fails

While technological development is integral to remaining competitive in the manufacturing industry, “[d]igital transformations are just as much about the people as they are about the technology,” something that is perfectly explained in the Forbes article, Here’s Why HR is Critical for Digital Transformation Success.  And for the long-time employees who are completely new to the modern technological landscape and don’t understand why change is necessary, it’s no wonder that “[n]ot considering the impact on your people and culture is one of the biggest reasons digital transformations fail so often.”

Digital Transformation Enables Lean Manufacturing

And if digital transformation efforts are failing, implementing a lean manufacturing methodology will be equally unsuccessful. That’s because lean manufacturing emphasizes supply chain efficiency, from just-in-time (JIT) production to improving communication with partners by automating document exchange. Achieving this is only possible if and when traditional supply chain management practices are reevaluated and employees respond to cultural change with open minds. HR can help with this.

To start, HR can increase internal support for digital transformation with an employee-first approach. That is, after all, the reason HR exists. And when employees are properly informed, educated, and trained on relevant topics, they’re much more likely to adopt a positive mentality and consciously aid in transformation efforts.