Digital disruption in manufacturing is playing out in a dynamic landscape where Operational Excellence (OE) strives for stability, quality and efficiency while continuing to service an increasingly demanding customer. Automation and advanced monitoring are helping organizations to reach new levels of stability within an evolving digital workspace that is increasingly awash in data.

The evolution of work is toward less manual and repetitive tasks with more focus on problem solving

Big data offers the tools to measure anything, shifting a good portion of the work load from humans to machines. For the people left behind jobs are evolving to be less manual and repetitive with more focus on problem solving. When problems do occur in increasingly digitized operations, they are bigger, more complex and may never have been experienced before. In addition, there are challenges presented by a global supply chain that is difficult to control and demanding due to organizations interest to increase the speed of delivering their products to customers.

Different than in the past, today’s improvement programs are focused on building critical thinking skills in employees at all levels in order to meet the challenges of this this digitized landscape. With so much data available through new monitoring devices, problem-solving skills can quickly eliminate irrelevant data that is key to laying a solid foundation for advanced problem solving and root cause analysis used in successful organizational improvement programs.

Leaders save valuable time when they can rely on operators with good problem-solving capabilities

Six Sigma, Lean or other projects used to produce sustainable improvements are enhanced by problem solving and other critical thinking skills on the shop floor.  Operational Excellence or Continuous Improvement leaders find they eliminate wasted time and effort when they can rely on operators with good problem-solving capabilities. Working together, they identify the right data and tackle complex issues more rapidly. Once improvements are made, shop-floor involvement in these projects continues through integration of sustainable alterations to day-to-day operations.

The ease of automating data collection dramatically improves an organization’s ability to measure the effectiveness of its strategies and plans. As IoT presents new opportunities, even companies coming to OE late in the game will benefit. Just like many African and Asian nations that jumped the expensive and resource intensive “poles and wires” stage of telecom, now factories can skip expensive ERP data capture and move into wireless monitoring interfaces. What cannot be skipped is embedding good critical thinking skills to use this data effectively to solve problems, pursue OE and monitor strategic objectives.

What cannot be skipped is embedding good critical thinking skills 

Today’s digital advances only underscore a key asset in the Operational Excellence journey: humans with critical thinking skills. The value of advanced capabilities in solving problems using logic and data is at the top of the list—across industries—of the most-needed, workforce capabilities. Critical thinking skills are perennially in demand, defying the disruptions and meeting the challenges of changing products, platforms, customers and technologies.

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About Kepner-Tregoe

Kepner-Tregoe has empowered thousands of companies to solve millions of problems. KT provides a data-driven, consistent, scalable approach to clients in Operations, Manufacturing, IT Service Management, Technical Support, and Learning & Development. KT provides a unique combination of skill development and consulting services, designed specifically to reveal the root cause of problems and permanently address organizational challenges. Our approach to problem solving will deliver measurable results to any company looking to improve quality and effectiveness while reducing overall costs. We empower you to solve problems.