In today’s highly global supply chain and manufacturing economy, it is no revelation that better communications are needed to cross the geographic, cultural and language distances that must now be covered as part of running nearly any sized company. Better communications means improved efficiency, less waste and higher customer satisfaction. The challenge with these types of concepts, however, is how do you measure and justify future investments to take advantage of the perceived benefits? What are reasonable assumptions when evaluating this type of investment decision?
Fortunately, Aberdeen Group just published the following “Sector Insight” research report: A New Age of Collaboration and Communication in Manufacturing. This report did a great job in trying to better explain and quantify some of the benefits of improving collaboration, which I thought might be interesting enough to share with our readers.
The first concept worthy of mention is the fact that collaboration today is much more “unstructured” that it has ever been in the past. Rigid IT infrastructures that might have worked well in the past from a support, security and management perspective, don’t work as well today. Today there are so many options on how to reach out and speak with a colleague today, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide if you should telephone, email, Instant Message (IM), texting, or even trying to use another company communications platform, such as SharePoint, Lync or wiki sites. The key is flexibility, and ensuring your IT platform can adapt as quickly as you need it in order to take advantage of the latest communications options.
Those willing to embrace new communications mediums will be rewarded. According to the Aberdeen Group report, benefits that separated the “Leaders” from the rest include:
- +11% Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE)
- +8% Operating margin vs. corporate plan
- +18% Successful new product introductions
Taking a deeper look into the findings, it turns out that Communications and Collaboration (C&C) Leaders were about 33% more effective in streamlining and accelerating processes to improve efficiency and productivity. Of course, other factors likely contributed to the Leaders improving their performance, but, this is a significant figure that certainly justifies spending attention on improving communications.
The research continues to point out the specific benefits that were achieved after implementing new C&C initiatives, providing a more cause and effect benefit comparison. Performance improvement was across the board and significant, as shown in Chart 1.
With regards to the communication venue of choice across manufacturing employees, email came in as the top medium, with 85% of the Leaders accessing it from their desktop computers (vs. 71% of the Followers). This isn’t surprising given its ubiquity and age. What is interesting is the speed with which new mobile platforms are gaining traction. Smart phones are now the third most popular collaboration tool, now used by half of the Leaders and around a quarter of the followers. I don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon. To read more about the mobility in manufacturing transformation, be sure to read this post.
In closing, the need to improve collaboration and communication across manufacturing is a worthy goal to pursue – the benefits are legitimate and significant. The more you invest to increase the flexibility of your operations IT infrastructure, the greater the opportunity you have to collaborate, and the greater upside you unlock to improve your own operational excellence. And, if you can extend your ability to collaborate across mobile platforms, then the upside will be even greater!
Gordon can be found on Google+.