The COVID-19 pandemic changed manufacturing in irrevocable ways. Not only did it make clear to companies the power of technology and the value of automation, but it also reshaped the workforce. Remote work is now more widespread than ever, even in manufacturing. Workforce populations remain well below pre-pandemic levels. And workplace culture is becoming more tech-savvy—and more tech-dependent overall—as older populations retire earlier.
The workforce continues to evolve. Companies seeking to improve engineering outcomes must pursue engineering transformation (EX) initiatives that minimize disruption and also account for employees’ changing priorities.
Pursuing EX with Today’s Manufacturing Workforce
To better understand how companies realize value and avoid disruption from their EX initiatives, Lifecycle Insights conducted the 2023 Engineering Transformation Study. The study findings reveal that organizations that reap the most value from their EX initiatives invested in changes to technology, processes, and roles and responsibilities at higher rates than other respondents. But these investments don’t just help companies achieve engineering improvement goals and reduce disruption. They also provide the support that today’s workers demand from their organizations.
This post explores how manufacturing companies can pursue EX in a way that provides meaningful value to the organization and satisfies the needs and expectations of a changing workforce.
Technological Changes Require Cultural Acceptance
Findings from the study indicate that top-performing respondents—that is, respondents that achieved their engineering improvement goals at a high level while experiencing low levels of disruption—invest in new technologies to support their EX initiatives. Such investments are attractive to an increasingly tech-savvy workforce. When these workers feel that their companies are investing in tools that support their performance and eliminate inefficiency, they are far likelier to buy into the organization’s EX initiatives.
That kind of cultural acceptance is essential to the success of EX initiatives. Every manufacturer strives to improve key metrics, such as company revenues and product quality. However, employees that feel unequipped to pursue those initiatives will likely resist change and limit the positive impact of the company’s improvement efforts.
Older generations of employees and those less experienced or comfortable with today’s technological solutions are more likely to resist their implementation because they lack familiarity with them and may be hesitant to learn how to use a new system. But today’s more tech-savvy workers view those solutions differently. They are more comfortable using new technologies and they see those technologies as necessary tools for increasing productivity and minimizing disruption. When companies invest in technology that improves stakeholders’ ability to execute improvement efforts more effectively, they create a workplace culture that attracts a younger, more technologically capable workforce—and makes existing employees feel more thoroughly supported.
Process and Organizational Changes Provide Needed Support
Though some in the manufacturing sector may hesitate to embrace new technologies, a growing number of workers expect their companies to make technological investments that support EX initiatives and reduce disruptions.But purchasing new software and training employees to use it is only one part of the EX equation. Organizations must also define processes and roles more thoroughly. Process changes amplify the effectiveness of new technologies. At the same time, changes to roles and responsibilities provide employees with greater clarity regarding their priorities and performance metrics. These changes allow companies to achieve their desired outcomes without needlessly suffering disruption, which is an attractive proposition to the modern workforce.
Today’s workers are seeking better work-life balance, more manageable workloads, and fair compensation. Manufacturers where disruption in the norm will find it difficult to meet those expectations. Failure to provide clear, pre-defined roles and processes will make it harder for these organizations to attract and retain top talent. Modern workers are not afraid to leave positions that don’t provide the support they expect—or that leave them buried under more work than they can reasonably handle.
On the other hand, organizations that invest in process and role changes to support the adoption of new technologies are in a better position to deliver those benefits. This, in turn, puts them in a far better position to attract the talent they want. Ultimately, those organizations create a workplace culture where EX initiatives can flourish, driven by motivated team members with a clear understanding of their roles and the tools they need to fulfill them effectively.
Synergy Benefits the Workforce and EX Initiatives
EX initiatives are fueled by changes in three areas: technology, people, and processes. But changes in one arena don’t have much impact when taken in isolation from the other two. The study findings show that less successful companies tend to invest in changes to just one or two areas, whereas top-performing companies invest in changes to all three areas at high rates. When it comes to mitigating disruption, the top performers are the clear winners: They reported rates of disruption that amounted to less than half of those reported by their peers.
This low level of disruption is the result of the synergy created when technological, process, and organizational changes are made in alignment with each other—and with clear goals in mind:
- New technologies provide new capabilities.
- New processes help maximize the impact of those capabilities.
- New roles and responsibilities make processes run more smoothly and ensure employees always understand how success is being measured.
This kind of synergy is not only appealing to a new generation of workers, but it’s also hugely important to the success of an organization’s EX initiatives. Without proper synergy between those initiatives and the employees that must carry them out, avoiding disruption and its costs is all but impossible.
EX can provide significant benefits to today’s manufacturers in the form of more efficient design and collaboration processes, lower costs, and higher-quality products. But to achieve those outcomes and realize EX’s full value, companies must take into account the needs and expectations of today’s workforce. They must create a supportive culture where changes are designed to reduce disruption and workers feel fully equipped to perform at a high level in pursuit of meaningful goals. Creating such a culture is imperative for companies that want to attract the younger, more tech-savvy workers that increasingly populate today’s workforce and achieve the engineering improvements EX is intended to deliver.
To learn more about EX and what it could mean for your organization, check out Lifecycle Insights’ report, Engineering Transformation: Realizing Value, Avoiding Disruption.