The CIO IoT Journey Leverages Cultural Buy-In

By: Babette Ten Haken - Leave a comment

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The CIO IoT journey involves more than swapping out legacy infrastructure for newer machinery and hardware.

The CIO functions as Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) organizational change agent for the enterprise.

They are placed into the role of facilitator between operations, IT and the C-Suite, as the integrator of people, processes, software and “things.”

As a result, the CIO is the catalyst of CEO-supported enterprise IoT vision. This role moves them firmly out of the traditional IT silo.

The CIO IoT journey explores the full scope of the business case first.

At IoT Emerge, Robert Bierwagen, VP and CIO of MPI Corporation, discussed his own CIO IoT journey automating the shop floor from a paper-based to a cloud-based ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.

Prior to this initiative, technical expertise resided in silos, creating pockets of tribal knowledge. Cross plant departmental visibility was poor.

Legacy mindset reinforced manual, front- and back-end labor-intensive processes. Product specifications were text-based. Repeat orders were cut and paste from past orders or handwritten. Legibility issues created downstream production miscues.

How similar is this business case to your own?

The focus of the CIO IoT journey tackles cultural buy-in.  

MPI Corporation’s IoT initiative quickly focused on plant-floor cultural buy-in.

Prior to the transition, Quality involved manual, end-of-process inspection. No real-time production tracking system existed.  As a result, the company had inventory buffers which inflated capital costs as well as hundreds of thousands of pounds of non-compliant raw material in distribution centers.

The CIO realized if the new ERP system was put into place without creating concurrent cultural buy-in on the plant floor, successful project implementation would be a struggle. Bierwagen related there was lots of pain in the first 18 months.

For starters, the multi-generational plant floor was skeptical. In particular, Boomers did not perceive IoT as “real” until they used a connected device. Therefore, the CIO IoT journey is initiated by turning plant floor resistance into IoT buy-in.

Is resistance to change a rate-limiting step in your own plant floor automation initiative?

The CIO IoT journey focuses on critical thinking to create high quality products and processes.

Plant floor automation disrupts the environment within which each worker is competent at performing. The IoT journey deconstructs the sense of comfort and perhaps complacency with the physical patterns associated with shop floor “work.”

The non-automated plant floor does not involve critical thinking as much as it does “doing”. Lots of repetitive, physical motions are involved. Workers develop muscle-memory and routinized behaviors.

Therefore, the CIO IoT journey focuses on gradual transition rather than full-scale disruption. Initially, IT folks replaces small yet significant manual processes with digital ones similar to the daily activities on the plant floor.

This step means daily patterns for IT folks are disrupted, too. They leave their thinking-intensive cubicles and work side-by-side with folks on the plant floor. IT and the shop floor start to communicate with each other across silos.

For starters, manual calipers replace by digital calipers. These tools have the same weight, hand feel and physical motions as the non-digital versions. However, throughput from these tools is quite different, no longer requiring manual, hand-written input of information. IT folks demonstrate how, when, why and where a digital caliper transmits data via handheld, tablet-type interfaces instead of paper.

Have you encountered a similar scenario? How about trying this strategy?

Pave the way for creating an IT-driven infrastructure by taking small, first-steps.

By focusing on differences in mindset and how jobs are performed, the CIO creates a buffer for transition into a cloud-based ERP system. Now Boomers, the folks with the most ingrained mindset and physical habits, are brought into the process early. They are put into sandboxes and asked to come up with solutions involving critical thinking skills.

A successful CIO IoT journey creates shop floor champions. Senior workers become IoT evangelists and cultural change agents.

The MPI case study still has challenges. Human error still plays out in process inefficiencies. Sometimes forklift operators store things in the warehouse, yet forget to make a digital entry into the inventory system.

However, instead of “telling” the plant floor what to do to resolve the issue, IT works alongside operations.

Problem-resolution is a cross-functional exercise. Knowledge is no longer tribal. Information resides in a single, cloud-based repository. Everyone understands the importance of their role in creating an accurate, productive and profitable IoT ecosystem.

As a result, the workforce becomes more hybridized. IT personnel are more knowledgeable about operational processes. Plant floor workers understand more about how the IoT works, looks and feels as they perform their new physical and knowledge-based functions.

How does the MPI business case catalyze the role of the CIO IoT journey in your own organization?

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About The Author

Babette Ten Haken

Founder & President, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC

Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six... Read More