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How To Drive Business Transformation In Your Organization

Written By: Dan Schawbel
January 19, 2016
5 min read

I recently spoke to Eddie Smith, who is the Director of Operations at Kuhn Krause, a Division of Kuhn North America. He’s speaking at PEXWeek this week. He oversees all manufacturing and support activities including production, purchasing, quality, lean/continual improvement, manufacturing engineering, and facilities/maintenance on a strategic level to achieve the most efficient production of the highest quality products at the best possible cost while meeting customer requirements. In the following brief interview, Smith talks about how he has driven business transformation at Kuhn, the biggest challenges he’s faced when driving change, and more.

Dan Schawbel: How do you effectively bring about business transformation, and can you share a few examples from Kuhn?

Eddie Smith: The first thing we did was get our executive management, managers and employees involved with the transformation. We did this by discussing why we need this transition, what our strategy would be, direction we want to go, the action plan, our timeline, and how to measure the results.

Next we sent some key employees from each department on benchmarking trips to other industries similar to what direction we were going. Once they could see process and talk with other people on why they were doing this then it became much clearer to them. Once they were on board, the rest of the process was much easier.

We worked in the assembly area transforming it from batch building to just in time and one piece flow. This was accomplished in just over three months through the use of low cost automation such as: carts, visual management and upgraded technology. This eliminated the need for the use of forklifts and improved on-time delivery to our customers. This transformation was all driven by the department manager and their hourly employees. Now we are being asked by other employees how they can get started in this journey in their departments.

In our Machining and Welding area we trained the employees in process flow using process mapping to incorporate a new hydraulic press we purchased. The department managers and their employees used this training to develop new shop layouts and drove the rearrangement of equipment for both departments. This improved product flow, reduced lead times and eliminated the need for a forklift.

Schawbel: What are your biggest hurdles in driving change across the organization from the people, processes or a tools perspective?

Smith: The biggest hurdles is getting people involved and help them understand why the company needs to change the way it does business today. Flexibility is the key to any business in today’s Global Economy. Once executive management, managers and employees understand why and how the change is going to affect them then they start to get on board. The company needs to understand and be willing to lose some good employees who will choose not to get on board. Once you have the commitment from all your employees, the process and tools implementation come easy. Executive management just needs to get out of the way and be there to remove roadblocks.

Schawbel: How is digital transformation changing the face of IT, its role and how it aligns with the business?

Smith: When the company decides it is time to make a transformation all departments are involved or it won’t work. IT is very important to this process as they have advanced knowledge of the latest technology and are looking for ways to gather and provide quicker real-time data to all departments. This is necessary due to the sheer volume of data being collected, the analysis needed on that data, and the communication of the results to the employees. This is critical for the employees so they can make the best decisions.

Schawbel: How do you ensure you’re measuring the right things and the right people have access to the right data to make business decisions?

Smith: In order to ensure you are measuring the right things the management team must understand what it is they want to measure and then how to gather the necessary information. Most important, separate the vital few data streams from the trivial many. Too much data is equally as bad as not enough. Once the management team understands the needs then they can define the type of data and the process to gather and disseminate it in the organization.

Schawbel: Mark Driver of Gartner indicated by 2020, at least 70% of large enterprises will have established successful citizen development policies, up from 20% in 2010. What are your thoughts on “Citizen Development” and how it can support the IT organization with proper tools and governance? Have you or your organization leveraged citizen development in your organizations? Why or why not?

Smith: My thoughts on “Citizen Development” is it is being created to fill a gap between timely software development and better flexibility. With most software you will never find one that is implemented to address all your needs; therefore: comes the need for something that can fill the gap. In many companies I have worked in, I have found it is very difficult to get enhancements made in a timely manner to software, if at all. This slows down the process in data mining and analysis. “Citizen Development” will fill that void. Everyone is looking for that cutting edge technology to gain market share, this is one area to achieve that goal. The companies which can capitalize on good data faster will be at the top. My organization is just starting to move in that direction. As a Global enterprise with factories all over the world we need to maintain organization of the IT Technologies. To accomplish this we have to a good balance between Program Developers Software and “Citizen Development.”

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Written By: Dan Schawbel
Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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