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The following article was written by Brian Armstrong, who works in Advisory, Manufacturing at Ashling Partners.

Even when moving forward, major transitions are often nerve racking.  In 2008, I left military active duty and transitioned into manufacturing operations.  Given the parallels within effective leadership and execution, the transition was a natural one that led to consistent success.

Looking back, I was eager but very ‘green’ to the industry. I started out as a Front Line Supervisor with a window and door manufacturer during the housing crisis of 2008. It was difficult time for the building materials industry, but I learned a number of lessons with the foremost being humility.  Specifically, having the humility as a leader to listen, engage, and learn from the production team and their support departments.

I moved on to explore the defense industry and mining industry taking on higher levels of responsibility.  I consider myself fortunate to have worked within these organizations during substantial momentum shifts as to gain exposure to acquisition transitions, product launches, metric deployment, restructuring of value streams, and intense demand swings.  Leading people, enforcing ownership, and setting priorities delivered results and brought these projects together.

Leadership, the ability to develop people and execute the mission, creates the foundation for manufacturing operations.  Leverage of people, data, and time (PDT) determines your effectiveness and speed.  With that said, PDT resources are almost always scarce—particularly time.  With the growing adoption of intelligent automation into manufacturing, it’s never been more exciting to turn their scarcity into abundance.

Leadership creates the foundation for manufacturing operations.

Leverage of people, data, and time determines your effectiveness and speed.

Intelligent automation opens the door.

Intelligent automation takes mundane high-volume tasks and redirects team members to value-added activities.  For a manufacturing operations ‘geek’ like myself, my mind runs wild with the possibilities of intelligent automation.  For the manufacturing community, it’s a transition that needs to be embraced and, more importantly, accelerated.  The vast majority of manufacturing organizations today are stuck carrying out mundane high-volume tasks unable to concentrate the majority of their time on process improvement initiatives critical to moving the business forward.

Instead of our manufacturing engineering staff spending hours transferring over a bill of material between systems, we can automate that process and concentrate on developing a proactive plan for cutting down cycle time on our current production run.  Instead of our supply chain team counting and recounting inventory for reorder, we can automate that process and concentrate on replicating standard operating procedures with our overseas plant to reduce lead time.  Imagine the decision making an individual would have to work through to leave an existing fully-automated organization for one still processing manually.  We’re talking about retention, job satisfaction, and personal fulfillment.  This is the future of work.

Transitions can be nerve racking even when moving forward.  Leading manufacturing teams in intelligent automation takes vision and courage.  As with all transitions, we must take the first step, and in this case, the first truly transformational automation.