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Leslie Bloom


Operational Resilience Explained

America was built on manufacturing, and manufacturing was built on resilience

Published: Monday, April 17, 2023 - 11:03

Our country has proven to be a place where workers who are skilled with their hands (and have a head for all things mechanical) can flourish, even during difficult times.

The value of resilience has been etched into the soul of our most famous products:
• Thomas Edison’s phonograph in 1877
• Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908
• Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster in 2008

Without the consistent application of this value, these industrial giants who went on to shape our nation’s history would have disappeared.

Would you say your company’s operational resilience is high? Do you have the processes and technology in place to prevent, recover, and adapt to the next manufacturing uncertainty?

Dozuki’s recent series, Create the Frontline of the Future, shared strategies and success stories from customers who demonstrate operational resilience in the face of new challenges. It’s inspiring to see how those manufacturers are fortifying their culture with digital transformation initiatives, empowering and equipping their teams for the changes coming next.

Below, we’re going to continue that thread with operational resilience recommendations so your organization can increase its adaptability and responsiveness.

How to hard-wire resilience into your operation

First things first: What is operational resilience? It’s the ability of a company to immediately respond and adapt to the changes in processes, systems, and environments in a people-centric way.

For additional context, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey, conducted research on the topic of operational resilience. According to that report, leading companies are building new levels of resiliency in many ways, not least of which is moving quickly to digitize operations end to end.

The study reported that companies often achieve significant and simultaneous improvements in multiple performance measures when they integrate advanced digital technologies across the value chain. Participating manufacturing organizations reported:
• Productivity increases of up to 90 percent
• Lead-time reduction of up to 80 percent
• Speed-to-market improvements of up to 100 percent

How do you hard-wire these behaviors into the organization so it is stronger in the years ahead?

Dozuki has a customer in the wireline openhole logging services industry. During the pandemic, when a large number of their employees worked remotely, their field staff spent a lot of their time working at reservoirs as the response teams to customer needs.

Particularly during the lockdown, without a traditional office space, communication and accessibility were more critical than ever.

Dozuki spoke with one of their customer’s documentation leads, who said his field staff was already quite resilient. But sometimes a snag would occur out in the wild, and workers would need reassurance to double-check work instructions to ensure they didn’t have an issue.

Previously, frontline workers at well sites were reaching out via cell phone to get instructions on what to do.

But with their digitization efforts, those calls were no longer needed. Every possible scenario to troubleshoot was available at their fingertips, updated in real time, on the Dozuki platform.

Read more about this important issue in Forbes via Dozuki co-founder Brian Sallee: Operational Resilience: Fortifying Your Company Against Disruption.

To reiterate, here’s an excerpt from that article:

“When manufacturers standardize their knowledge-management efforts globally, companies can be more operationally resilient without dramatically increasing costs.

“Frontline employees are literally hard-wiring resilience into their operating system, and in turn, figuratively hard-wiring that pattern of behavior so it becomes instinctive.”

After you’ve elevated the collective intelligence of the team, the next topic is training.

Create a centralized hub for employee training

Did you know that during the 1940s, 70 percent of U.S. manufacturing was focused on wartime production? We recommend a fascinating book called Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II (Random House, 2013).

Here’s some trivia to blow your mind. American factories during that time were:
• Redeploying a wartime-focused facility every 5 minutes
• Producing more than 150 tons of steel every minute
• Launching eight aircraft carriers a month and 50 merchant ships a day

Resilience was the order of the day. Manufacturers had no choice but to respond quickly to the country’s needs and supply our troops with everything they required to survive during one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history.

Thankfully, our economic needs are not as acute as they were during wartime. Technology has advanced astronomically. However, every generation has its own crises to contend with.

Marissa DeWhite, one of Dozuki’s team members, has spent the past two years helping companies implement a culture of continuous improvement that empowers their workforce. She explained that Dozuki still hears from customers about the effects of the pandemic on their manufacturing operations:

“Expert veteran folks have already retired, or they have expedited their plan and will retire soon,” she says. “However, many manufacturers we talk to haven’t discovered a foundational way to capture tribal knowledge before it walks out the door.

“Life throws these massive curveballs that we have recently experienced, and being prepared for the unknown is important. Only with the right platform—and mindset paired with it—can organizations have a better chance at staying afloat.”

If your company wants to raise operational resilience, you need tools and systems that enable you to capture content (both written and visual) more efficiently than with the traditional tools you have been using.

Without a centralized hub for all your content, and the best practices to train the constant influx of new people, you’ll fall behind. Speaking to a more technically savvy generation that relies mostly on pictures and videos in their everyday life will be hard.

This strategy directly affects employee retention, an urgent issue many manufacturers have been struggling with. The revolving door of new people coming in calls for faster response times in terms of training needs, and more compelling and clearer career paths for those employees.

If your company can showcase both the technology and the trajectory that’s possible when working for you, your employer brand will thrive, even during a down economy.

How to sell digital transformation internally

Dozuki has a customer that remanufactures and distributes drivetrain products. Behavioral safety is absolutely essential at its facilities. Recently, its director of technology shared a remarkable story with Dozuki’s customer success team. Here’s that story:

A frontline employee was reaching under one of the automotive units, while it was on a hook, to remove an oil plug. That person commented on the work instructions: “Wait a minute. Why are we reaching underneath a 750-lb unit when it’s only strung up by a nylon strap? If that strap ever went wrong, we’re going to lose a hand and a wrist. Why don’t we leave the plug in and do it during a later step when the unit is standing upright on the bench?”

The following day, another operator (with a four-and-a-half-year tenure) who had been doing this procedure hundreds of times sent that change down the pipeline. He changed his behavior without even being asked. The next day, he performed that task in front of a safety supervisor from the parent company. The operator left the plug in the transmission until it was upright, four or five steps later, because the insight was undeniable.

And here’s the best part of the story:

The safety supervisor who witnessed this change in behavioral safety called his lean supervisor and technology team. They were so impressed with the ownership the frontline team took over the process (and the technology that enabled it) that they reached out to pilot Dozuki’s software at other facilities within the organization.

How are you using knowledge and access to create more agility and velocity? Can your team members contribute to learning from their valuable experience as you define your perfect process?

One interesting framework comes from the University of Cambridge’s Automation Lab. Its team uses a model for operational resilience that applies here:
• Awareness: What is known about what might go wrong?
• Preparation: What preparation can be made in anticipation?
• Management: What decisions are needed to manage potential disruptions?
• Disruption response: What can physically happen in response to disruptions?

Ask these questions early and often, so eventually they become internalized and instinctive.

Dozuki’s agile system means that if there’s a change that needs to be made within your training or documentation, it can be updated in real time, approved, and retrained on right away.

The global pandemic may have shaken things up. But operational resilience is here to stay, as it has been throughout our nation’s history.

If you want to protect your manufacturing business against events beyond your control, there is a way forward. Use a system that equips you to immediately respond and adapt to the changes in the processes, systems, and environments.

First published on the Dozuki blog.


About The Author

Leslie Bloom’s picture

Leslie Bloom

With a background in design and communications, Dozuki vice president of marketing Leslie Bloom leads Dozuki’s efforts to create and distribute valuable resources related to standard work, training, and lean manufacturing.