Manufacturers reinventing processes? Refresh the org structure, too

Mark Humphlett Profile picture for user Mark Humphlett June 14, 2017
Manufacturers reinventing processes should not forget to refresh the org structure too with new roles and skills, writes Infor's Mark Humphlett

Welding in manufacturing with sparks © wi6995 -
Manufacturing is reinventing itself. From the receiving dock to the shop floor, from engineering and design to order entry and fulfillment, the end-to-end processes are being modernized, technology updated. But one critical aspect is often overlooked – the organizational chart.

New strategies and processes call for a new leadership structure. As business models and technology evolve, all employees must adapt to new expectations. Skills, job descriptions, and hierarchy charts all need adjustments to reflect the modern manufacturing environment

Priorities have shifted to designing innovative products, bringing greater value to the customer, and to developing service offerings, often wrapped around products. Data is a high priority, as is security, and digital concepts, such as the Internet of things (IoT) and connected devices. It’s logical that new roles, or evolved roles, will be created to shepherd these causes and ensure the initiatives receive the attention, oversight, and funding they deserve. Spearheading these new priorities in their groundbreaking stages is especially important, as processes, expectations, and governance are being set.

Starting at the top

Some manufacturers are adding new C-level titles. Chief digital officer, chief data officer, chief security officer, and chief customer experience officer are among the new titles appearing on C-suite office doors. These new roles signal changing expectations to the employees, and help clarify responsibilities.

The chief customer service officer is gaining acceptance as manufacturers meld tasks scattered across the organization into one highly focused role with authority for setting new policy and resolving issues around customer accounts, billing, or fulfillment of service. Moving to a customer-centric model often requires an adjustment phase as personnel learn parameters and what prescribed tactics can be used to make a disgruntled customer happy again.

The changing role of the CIO

Existing roles are affected, too. The heavy workload associated with digital transformation can be a burden on a chief information officer without supporting resources to get the job done right. But the digital era also brings great opportunities for the CIO, placing him or her firmly at the table with strategic decision-makers.

Traditionally, the CIO has held dual roles, operational and strategic — overseeing operational tasks such as onboarding new hires and customizing reporting for managers, as well as managing strategic duties such as advising on upgrades and when capital funds should be set aside for technology investments. Now, more than ever, the CIO has to juggle both roles, helping define the role IT will play in the digital evolution, as well as establishing protocols for use of data, mobile devices, and role-based reporting.

The pressure to perform advanced functions, such as predictive analytics and data science, continues to escalate. On the other hand, some routine tasks are becoming easier as modern IT solutions lighten the burden. For example, self-reporting tools and contextual analytics now empower the front-line user to create their own queries, establish and monitor personal key performance indicators (KPIs), and access online knowledge base and training tools for best practices and prescribed workflows.

Empowering the workforce

The ease-of-use found in some modern ERP solutions can alleviate traditional pressures on the IT team. Built-in collaboration tools and last-mile functionality for vertical industries also help the workforce enjoy valuable self-serve functionality — without posing a drain on the IT team.

Turning to cloud deployment is one of the most effective ways the organization can shift responsibility off the IT team, allowing the organizational structure to align with new priorities, such as evolving to a digital enterprise and building customer loyalty. Cloud deployment places the responsibility of hardware, servers, security, back-ups, and functionality upgrades on the cloud provider. With a cloud ERP solution, there is no more need to manage cumbersome modifications.

Actionable advice

Manufacturers who want to optimize their modernization initiatives also need to revamp their leadership structure and job responsibilities. Modern technology can make a major impact on the workforce, giving front-line users extra capabilities and freeing the IT team to play a more strategic role. Above all, a refined organizational structure can reinforce critical priorities, such as adopting digital concepts and creating market differentiation that can power future success.

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