How manufacturers leverage digital workflows to energize operations?

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Female Manufacturing Worker

Companies in the manufacturing industry are under constant pressure to innovate. They face stiff competition from each other trying to cut down costs, improve quality, and prevent material waste. This has resulted in innovations from assembly lines to rapid prototyping and predictive maintenance.

Digital workflows are the latest among these innovations aimed to make manufacturing processes more efficient and streamlined. They have played a huge role in augmenting digital transformation initiatives within manufacturing companies. 

In this article, we explore what digital workflows are and how manufacturing companies benefit from them. 

Dive in to learn more. 

What are digital workflows?

Traditionally a workflow describes how business processes are carried out from beginning to end. It will showcase the inputs, the tools and machinery involved, workers and their roles, and what the final output will be. 

In a digital workflow, all of the steps in a traditional workflow are presented and controlled through a digital or cloud platform. They empower managers to track a process from its beginning to end, get regular status updates, and streamline communication within the organization. 

Digital workflows are becoming more common in manufacturing

Just like a traditional workflow, digital workflows showcase all of the steps and workers involved in a process. The difference is that employees as well as other systems and solutions in the workplace regularly interact with them. They are continuously updated and are an active tool in manufacturing units. 

What are the benefits of digital workflows in the manufacturing industry?

Digital workflows radically improve business process management in the manufacturing industry and make them more efficient. They empower managers and employees to be their best productive selves and do what they do best. 

Here’s how digital workflows can benefit the manufacturing sector

  1. Give more visibility over an organization’s processes

  2. They prevent downtimes and delays 

  3. Help streamline business process management

  4. Make business processes more robust and flexible

  5. Improve communication among employee

Let’s get into the details of each of these benefits: 

1. Digital workflows give more visibility over an organization’s business processes

Stakeholders and managers in most manufacturing companies struggle to gain visibility over their processes. It’s difficult to understand how the processes are related to each other, identify who is accountable for specific tasks, and assess the status of different tasks. 

The lack of transparency prevents managers from identifying process bottlenecks and delays, and how they can make them more efficient. Without clear visibility, processes may be repeated unnecessarily and material and human resources may be wasted. 

Furthermore, a digital workflow creates one source of truth for the business processes of an organization. These tools offer managers a complete picture of their tasks and empower them to quickly identify inefficiencies. 

It offers managers and employees better clarity over their workflows and empowers them to perform continuous data-centric business process improvement. 

2. They prevent downtimes and delays 

Process downtimes as well as delays in deliveries can be costly in the manufacturing industry. Delays in a single process can easily cascade into energy losses, material wastage, client dissatisfaction, and ultimately revenue loss. 

Manual scheduling adds risks to modern workflows

With digital workflows, manufacturing units have better control over their supply chains, inventories, equipment status, and other factors determining production timelines. Companies can eliminate human error to a large extent with digital workflow automation. 

3. Manufacturing units can implement continuous business process improvement

Digital workflows can help organizations identify and remove unnecessary redundancies and delays in their processes. They can help organizations better understand the relationships and dependencies between different processes. 

Moreover, organizations can implement continuous business process improvement strategies. Businesses can also bake in compliance, safety, approvals, document, and quality management processes to these tools and reduce the resources spent on them. 

Manufacturing units can use digital workflow automation to reduce employee workload and they can use digital workflow processes to improve productivity within the organization. 

4. They can make manufacturing processes more robust and flexible

The manufacturing industry is highly dynamic and businesses need rapid process improvements to stay ahead of the competition. Customer demands change, but there may be delays in supply chains, and new product quality standards and manufacturing technologies may emerge causing difficulties.

Businesses in the industry have to stay agile and constantly adapt to maintain their revenue streams and ensure customer satisfaction. 

The enhanced visibility from digital workflows empowers managers and executives to plan ahead with concrete data. With them, organizations can build robust, flexible, and agile manufacturing processes. They help organizations to adapt and scale up or down with demands without drastic losses. 

With these solutions, organizations can rapidly and efficiently implement process improvements and keep the business up and running even in adverse market conditions. 

5. Digital workflow processes improve communication among employees

The vast range of interconnected and often dependent processes within the manufacturing industry makes communication difficult. It’s not easy to coordinate the actions of a large number of employees, follow up on their tasks, and ensure that deliverables are ready on time. 

Even with well-defined practices, messages and memos may get lost or not reach the right person.

Digitizing workflows allows companies to scale

With a digital workflow solution, organizations can empower employees with all the information they need to perform their duties. They can organize and streamline communications company-wide and avoid confusion and delays. 

Digital workflow processes will ensure that employees are aware of their tasks, deliverables, and deadlines, and allow managers to keep track of their progress. If there are any changes in the processes or schedules, managers can notify their team through a single channel. 

What are the challenges of implementing digital workflows in the manufacturing industry?

1. Legacy systems and siloed data

Manufacturing industries often use a large number of systems and tools to manage their workflows and processes. These systems may be outdated or not compatible with modern digital workflow solutions. 

Legacy systems also compound the problem of data siloes in the organization. It’s difficult to bring together organizational data when working with outdated software systems and tools. 

2. The human factor

The technological challenges are minuscule compared to getting buy-in from management and workers. Even though there are clear benefits for employees, a digital workflow process will be a drastic shift from what they are used to. 

Management and executives may also be hesitant to disrupt the status quo and implement a completely new solution. 

Organizations will also have to face a skill deficit as employees may not be familiar with the new system or know how to use it effectively. 

3. Lack of documentation for existing processes

In many organizations, existing business processes are not well documented or may not even be standardized. It may also be difficult to break down complex processes and streamline them.

There’s also the likelihood that vast amounts of organizational knowledge were never written down, but rather passed between employees. Certain processes, operating procedures, material and vendor details, and other information may solely exist in employees’ heads. 

4. Defining and measuring success

Many manufacturing organizations struggle to measure and showcase the ROI, even when there are clear benefits to these initiatives. Without clear ROI, the initiative may fail to get traction and may be shelved soon. 

One of the major roadblocks is defining metrics for the initiative. With an initiative that includes the entire company, it’s not easy to specify what defines success. 

Measure for success

Many organizations often fall for vanity metrics or number that appear high but doesn’t correlate with the goals of the organization. For instance, the number of employees onboarded or processes digitized may showcase the progress of the initiative, but doesn’t reflect what the organization gained from it. 

What are the best practices for implementing digital workflows in manufacturing?

Digital workflows require careful planning; an ad-hoc approach can be disastrous when you’re trying to revamp all the processes in your organization. Here are some of the best practices for smooth implementation in a manufacturing organization: 

Define clear goals and metrics 

The first step is to define what your organization aims to achieve with them. You have to define the metrics and goals of the initiative and make sure they align with the goals of the organization. Successful implementation should help the business achieve its goals. 

These metrics should then drive the initiative. 

Focus on the organizational culture and the human factor

To get the best results, you need a team motivated to make it work. Organizations often make the mistake of going all in on the technology and the tools and forgetting about the organizational culture.

When rolling out the platform, ensure that you have both employees and managers excited about it. Make sure they receive clear communication on what’s expected of them and that they’re trained to get the maximum value out of the solution. 

Executive champions who are actively involved in the initiative can play a huge role in making the initiative a success. 

Study the existing workflows and processes 

Study and understand existing business processes and how they work to produce the outputs. Speak to the employees and managers and define and document the existing workflows. 

Once you have a good understanding of the workflows, explore how you can make them more efficient and bring them onto the new platform. 

Start small and scale up on its success

While it may be tempting to go digital in one full sweep, it’s best to do it slowly and in small steps. When you start small, you can better nail down the process improvement methodology. 

Start in a department that’s most excited or most welcoming, where you can make an easy win. Once you have successfully implemented and showcased the ROI, it will be easier to get more support. You can also recruit employees from the department as champions for the program as you scale up. 

Integrate with existing systems

You need to bring all of the organizational data to one place to get maximum value out of the initiative. For this, you need to integrate all the existing tools in the organization such as ERP, CRMs, project management solutions, and even employee management tools into the platform.  

Monitor the metrics and iterate continuously

Even if you work with best practices, it’s tough to get this perfect the first time. Continuous process improvement is crucial for achieving maximum business value. Figure out what is not efficient, and what’s holding back the progress, and iterate the workflows accordingly. 

Supercharge your manufacturing unit with Cadynce digital workflows

Cadynce is a powerful digital workflow solution designed for the manufacturing industry. The platform is built for a seamless experience for employees, managers, and other stakeholders.

Sign up now and take your manufacturing business to the next level

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