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2 minute read

Make UK Conference: Small steps for big results with digital transformation

Richard Allbert, former Head of Digital Innovation, Pirelli Deutschland developed a successful program of education and training to help organisations ‘kick-start’ the digital transformation process. When faced with the challenge of digital transformation, he realised that the key to success was enabling, empowering and educating the workforce. Ahead of the National Manufacturing Conference, he shares how this involved people of all levels – training operators, specialists and managers alike to be able to understand and implement their own data-driven solutions.

One of the biggest manufacturing transformations in recent history was lean manufacturing. One of the core principles of lean is autonomy – providing the tools and methods to the workforce to allow them to innovate new ideas, solve existing problems and continuously improve. Teams would identify value, develop ideas and implement solutions. This empowerment is rewarding and motivating.

The Make UK National Manufacturing Conference takes place in London on 25th February 2020 / Picture: Make UK


Fast forward to today and with digital transformation, we often see the opposite – very little autonomy and empowerment. Digital technology is incorrectly perceived as a black box that we can’t understand – a job for IT or a software supplier. Why? The issue lies with the advances in technology in recent years. We have become more and more end-users rather than creators. We all walk around with a mini-computer in our hands every day in the form of a smartphone, but none of us really have an idea of how it works or just how powerful that technology can be. We talk of digital skills in terms of being able to use digital devices, not in terms of being able to create and develop solutions. We rarely innovate. The irony is that the tools to be able to create are as accessible as they have ever been.

In response to this, I developed a program to give back the autonomy – to train people to develop their own solutions, such as live smart dashboards, predictive algorithms, automated KPIs etc.

In reality, this isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds. I go in with my team to teach operators, specialists, team leaders working on the factory floor how to do this from scratch in just a few days. The point is to give people who know the production process in minute detail exactly the tools they need to make their processes work better and more effectively.

The result was quite dramatic – hundreds of tools developed by people working directly with the process – teams of people working together and developing their own solutions. Not only did it create value in terms of process improvement, but there was also a noticeable increase in motivation and improvement in teamwork that came from enabling people digitally.

Empowering a workforce to create in this digital age is key to modernising organisations and everything can build from there.

Make UK will be hosting a Small Steps for Big Results workshop at the National Manufacturing Conference on 25 February 2020, London where you can hear from Richard alongside Mark Sage, Executive Director of AREA and Erica Purvis from Technical Nature, on how they are bucking the trend and have reduced costs, increased margins and improved lead-times.

Find out more on the National Manufacturing Conference below