Not long ago, manufacturing’s primary concern was about making products that worked well and looked attractive. Today, manufacturers are challenged to look at their task from a much broader perspective.
Leading manufacturers are now leveraging a research-driven, design-thinking approach to innovation both consumer-facing and internally, to create more engaging and efficient employee experiences. Major manufacturers have spent more than a trillion dollars on transformation projects. What lessons have been learned, and how can companies boost their odds of success?
Some fascinating insights were revealed in our recent webinar about the future of manufacturing. Moderated by Liz Miller, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, the panelists included Brian Ammons, Business Director, Smart Materials at DuPont, Sudhi Bangalore, VP, Industry 4.0, Stanley Black & Decker, and Sunil Karkera, Global Managing Director, DesignIt (a Wipro company).
Imperative I: Remember there’s always a human at the end – and at the beginning of the process.
Designing for human needs is critical, but before leaders can take that journey, they will always need buy-in and support from senior management. As moderator Liz Miller pointed out, “The most difficult part of leading innovation isn’t having great ideas. It’s when changing the coffeemaker in the break room requires five meetings with fifteen different people.”
When Brian Ammons, Business Director, Smart Materials at DuPont started his group he knew that researching the fundamental question of how humans and buildings interact would take a serious effort. “It sounds ominous, right? It sounds lengthy and it sounds expensive.”
To get buy-in from senior management, the team decided that instead of doing the kind of traditional science that DuPont is famous for, they’d take readily available technologies in the materials space and the electronic space and merge those together. “The business model became more at the innovation level than the actual product level. We wanted to learn and monetize as quickly as we could along the way.”
Imperative II: Design for the PURPOSE of the human.
“The human wants to do X, so design for that purpose.” Sunil Karkera, Global Managing Director, DesignIt cautioned. “As Peter Drucker said, ‘"Nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction.” Also, remember that we are not the only ones who are inventive: people are makers, too. After you ship a product you believe is perfect, people will add onto it — and it may not be your add-on. Manufacturers need to make it easy for people to build on your work and make it better for their purposes.
“That requires more than a team of designers,” Karkera points out. “You need a multi-spectrum team that has studied the culture, studied ethnography and social sciences. If you want to be responsible and connected, you need to bring in a lot of perspectives and cooperative feedback throughout the process.”
Imperative III: It’s critical to be grounded about design. Design has to be shippable, doable, feasible, scalable, practical.
The value of any innovation is limited to a company’s ability to actually bring it to market. As Sudhi Bangalore, VP, Industry 4.0, Stanley Black & Decker notes, “We want to build what we sell, and be awesome at it. We think of manufacturing as an advantage.”
Part of what creates that advantage is investing in better experiences for the people who manufacture the product. “We have over 40,000 people in our factory across the globe. You’ve got to care, and work to really understand, what the issues are and what makes that person tick, so we can enable new ways of working. It’s not about people enabling technology, it’s the other way around.”
In other words, strong design-led manufacturing isn’t something that happens only on a whiteboard on a conference call. It is something that applies throughout the entire process, right down to the factory floor.
Imperative IV: Design is a series of compromises. New technologies can speed your ability to make well-researched, well-informed compromises.
The design discipline leverages a wide variety of research methods and techniques designing for personas, journey mapping, and interaction design. But there are limits to the speed at which humans can design based on gut feelings, instinct, and intellect. DesignIt’s Sunil Karkera, Global Managing Director, says DesignIt is excited about convolutional neural networks as a way to be more dynamic and industrious, to generate “more ideas, faster than humanly possible.” These can leverage genetic evolutionary algorithms, bringing the power of artificial intelligence to massively experiment and make better products.
Imperative V: Design for ecosystems, not individual products.
The compelling vision underlying the Smart Materials work at DuPont is to create “the world as a circuit.” Instead of focusing on getting smaller — smaller devices, smaller packages, smaller manufacturing elements that go into each individual device — Brian Ammons’ team is thinking bigger. “Humans interact with buildings every day, but buildings are full of passive materials. How can we take some of the forgotten assets, the floor, the wall, the table, and enable a new human interaction with those? When you have copper on a surface, you can run power through it, you can connect sensors to it, and you can run data. You can do all of the different things that are required to create an electronic device. Our idea for Smart Materials was target the internet of things, specifically, building IoT.”
There’s a lot more to learn. Tune into the on-demand webinar here.