According to Jamie Notter, noted author and consultant, innovation is change that unlocks new value. And it’s true in everyday life:
- Remember going to the library to research a topic? Today we link to the internet from our smartphones.
- How about commuting to the office? Now we work off-site for part of the week or as full-time employees.
- Waiting for your favorite Thursday-night television show to air? Programming is available when we want it – to binge watch, rediscover old favorites or watch live sports broadcasts away from home via services like Sling. It’s all on our time.
The same holds true for manufacturing. We once needed teams of people to work production lines. Robotics has taken over some of that responsibility giving us precise metrics. OEMs are also streamlining operations by purchasing assemblies from manufacturers to reduce production time and costs. But where does this leave the employee?
The answer: In a position for growth.
Innovation not only heightens the company’s competitive edge, it can find a different jobs for employees while encouraging skill development. Done correctly, newly created roles are within employees’ capabilities or they are able to train in different competences.
After all, the health of a company – and subsequently, its ability to employ people – is dependent on four leading factors. These factors are:
- Flexible Manufacturing
- Employee Production
- How the Competition is Reacting to or Reinventing the Marketplace
Below are three ways to boost innovation while enhancing employee’s career paths.
Lean Operational Teams
A core team of skilled and flexible line workers can be your greatest asset. This nimble team is adaptable during slower periods and can be supplemented with temporary help and overtime when production levels increase.
Getting Started: Ideally, a manufacturing environment is established under this framework – or through attrition. The best occasion to implement this approach to an existing plant is when a larger number of employees retire or move on to other opportunities.
Employees who are skilled in just one aspect of production are a liability. Avoid creating this type of environment by continually advancing employee’s skill sets. This way, employees become interchangeable if there is an unexpected absence and increased production levels can be met with additional workers.
Getting Started: Establish a formal training program for interested employees. The program should include job shadowing, one-on-one training and proficiency tests. Employees will appreciate the opportunity for overtime on other lines while learning new skills.
Creating a Culture of Transformation
Netflix wrote the handbook on transformative culture. Employees are instructed to find the simple in the complex and to lean towards forward thinking. This methodology allowed them to transfer from DVDs to streaming video and exclusive television show production. Both of these accomplishments kept Netflix relevant, competitive and profitable.
The same holds true for the manufacturing industry. Instilling a culture that recognizes ways to modernize production, find an improved work flow or develop products that meet an emerging market need give the workplace a heightened level of competitiveness.
Getting Started: Find ways to eliminate barriers to creativity with managers who are receptive to new ideas. Provide incentives for ideas that generate practical outcomes. Above all, encourage change by practicing adaptability with honesty, integrity and passion.
The Bottom Line
In order to be competitive, companies must evolve. Evolution takes many forms and offers an array of opportunities to engage the most adaptable employees. Retooling a workflow or product should never be held back by an inability to change.