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Tribal Knowledge to Digital Transformation: Embracing Leadership and Technology in A Brave New World

Tribal Knowledge to Digital Transformation:
Embracing Leadership and Technology in A Brave New World

A climate of tribal knowledge has let our manufacturing facilities sit silently on the brink of ruin for years in the US. One person, and every manufacturing facility has that one person, is the only person who knows how to restart that machine, reset that sensor, or fix that faulty error code. Without that one person, things grind to a halt. 

Up until now, what happens next has been theoretical. What happens if that person gets hit by a bus? What happens when that person retires? But the time for theories has passed. What happens when the keepers of the keys, the masters of tribal knowledge at your facility don’t show up for work for two weeks, for six weeks, maybe even ever again? 

Our New Reality

It may sound dire, some may call it an overreaction. But it’s our new reality, and the sooner you wake up to it, the better chance you have of surviving the coming storm.

It’s not that bad, some may say. If the person who knows set points, run times, machine settings is quarantined, we can just call them and ask. But what if they don’t know the numbers? What if it’s by feel or habit, built upon a career of dependably doing a job for your facility for 10, 20, 30 years?

I’m guessing a lot of executives and decision makers who have been turning a blind eye to the issue of tribal knowledge will be coming to these stark realizations over the coming weeks and months. I’m asking these things because they are real life situations that are going to be happening, and they need to be addressed to preserve American manufacturing and any semblance of our way of life.

Everything is already changing, so now is the time to embrace change whole-heartedly when it comes to our manufacturing facilities. Don’t care to invest into visualization and tracking? Happy to guess on production reports? Be prepared to be in a world of hurt. The reality is it’s 2020, the nation is in crisis, and if you don’t have a plan to continue production then you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

The good news is that it’s not too late.

This is your wake up call.

Continuing business as usual, the same way your company has since 1978 or 1985 or 1994 or even 2004, is no longer a viable option. Attempting business as usual in the face of COVID-19 will put your organization out of business.

What can you do, though? There’s so many other day-to-day issues to coordinate right now, so many minute details demanding attention, what can you possibly do?

Do what you were hired to do. Lead.

Leadership is what your company needs.

You’re going to have to make tough decisions.
You’re going to have to spend money to implement change and remain viable.
Most difficult of all, you’re going to have to trust your people, and find new partners you can trust.

You as leaders in your organizations have to embrace technology and welcome change, for the sake of yourselves and the people whose livelihoods depend upon you. It won’t be easy, but then, positive changes never are. The time for aggressive and systemic Digital Transformation is now. Quite frankly, it’s important to make the choice before you can’t anymore.

Want to learn more?

Do you want to talk about how your organization can start down this path? Reach out. I have the industry experience to guide you. We’ll draw up blueprints for a successful Digital Transformation in the face of this crushing adversity.

Want to read more and hear more of my thoughts on how the pandemic will affect the manufacturing industry? Let me know, or check back when I talk about Digital Transformation in a time of uncertainty.