How to be a champion for tagless assets in your plant

Our company has been involved in numerous deployments where first-time mobile CMMS implementations were embraced by upper management and enthusiastically adopted by end users as well, because of the work of an internal champion that promoted new technology. The role of the internal champion cannot be understated.

By Richard Padula, President CEO, Syclo LLC, Barrington, IL June 12, 2003

Our company has been involved in numerous deployments where first-time mobile CMMS implementations were embraced by upper management and enthusiastically adopted by end users as well, because of the work of an internal champion that promoted new technology.

The role of the internal champion cannot be understated. Few people have greater insight into process flaws and areas needing improvement than plant engineers and employees working in the trenches. Who better to recommend process changes that can increase performance or output, than someone who directly realizes the effect of introducing a new technology?

So how do you, the plant engineer, become a champion within your company? How do you convince the powers-that-be to invest in assets they cannot see? There are several key actions and positions that a successful champion can employ to lead his or her company through the challenges of implementing a new technology. Some are obvious, while others are subtle. But when used as a roadmap, all have been proven to work.

Know your organization

Address the processes currently in use. Identify where bottlenecks exist and how they can be improved with technology. Consider prior attempts to “fix” the problem and be prepared to explain why these attempts failed. Then explain how the new approach will address effectively the weaknesses in your current processes.

As a champion, it is critical that you put yourself in the shoes of upper management. It is upper management that will not only be concerned with workflow improvements, but how the overall process will benefit the organization. Be prepared to present the benefits this technology will deliver to the entire organization — from employees on the front line, to the managerial level, and the organization as a whole. It’s best to talk dollars when possible.

Profile your change proposal

Profile your change in a detailed proposal, emphasizing benefits and hard ROI. Think about your process and look for needed improvements. Create documents, graphs, and charts showing the current process or methodology. Clearly illustrate the existing pinch points, unnecessary costs, and inefficiencies. Then build corresponding charts that depict the new process or technology with improvements from your proposed solution. Include numbers for the existing process — labor, production delays, quality control, data entry, etc. Show hard dollar costs that can be eliminated (data entry personnel, call center staff, man hours) and be prepared to discuss soft dollar, or intangible benefits, as well. These intangible benefits include the value and overall improvements to your organization’s efficiency over time or an increase in customer satisfaction.

Illustrate other successful implementations within your industry when possible. In an early technology market, proven numbers may not always be available, so you may have to be creative in illustrating ROI. For example, calculate man-hours saved, increases in wrench time, and obvious operating cost savings. Likewise, try not to highlight an increase in productivity as a single benefit. Instead, illustrate how more productivity eventually reduces the amount of overtime from 10% to 5%, and can eliminate the need for outsourcing. For regulated industries, consider the elimination of fines charged in the past for noncompliance, which would no longer be applicable because of new technology improvements. Ask your vendor for help here. Technology providers should be able to provide examples of the benefits their solution can deliver to your applications.

Identify decision makers

Know who else is involved in the decision; speak their language to gain buy-in. Simplify the process for your boss by beginning talks with other internal players whose buy-in is required, such as users, IT staff, and superintendents. Management wants to decrease or eliminate risk in any new process implementation. For new technology rollouts, the greatest risks often have little to do with the technology itself. The risks have more to do with organizational support. Respective players must be committed to adopting the new business processes created by the technology. Work with each to develop a benefit map to their world. (Continued on p 43)

When approaching each audience, be mindful of presenting your solution in their language. Be prepared to present the benefits of a new technology implementation differently when talking to a user on the plant floor, as opposed to a manager in the front office. Their concerns are different. And if you understand these concerns and speak directly to them, your proposal is more likely to be accepted.

Users are particularly important to new technology implementations. Their buy-in is often the first concern of managers. Your IT department also should be called in to endorse the technology and validate its compatibility in your environment. Don’t wait until the last minute to involve these IT resources! They have been through technology assessments many times. They know what your management team is looking for, and can help you prepare for justifying your suggestions. IT departments also have the expertise to help determine hidden costs, such as the resources necessary to support the new technology, or the need for new hardware or devices to be deployed.

Seek vendor involvement

Know your vendor and its technology — and ask for help. Vendors offering a technology solution know the benefits it provides. It’s their job. Lean on them, because no amount of support you request is too much. They want to make the sale. Helping you become a hero in your company goes with the territory. They can provide you with case studies, ROI examples, estimated costs, a project plan, allied vendors, and more.

Ask for references. Directly contacting your vendor’s customer references may be helpful in distinguishing fact from fiction, and enable you to compile your own assessments of real versus purported benefits.

Ensure the technology vendor you choose is solid and reputable — both in customer references and economic footing. Too many companies were left without a vendor to support their solutions after the dotcom fallout. Look for a vendor that has a reputation for consistently delivering valuable solutions and excellent customer service.

Expect to be challenged

There’s a good chance that your first attempt at proposing the addition of a new technology may not be heeded at the expediency you would hope for. That’s why doing your homework before attempting to champion a technology solution will save you a lot of time and effort. This step could possibly make the difference between your proposal being left by the wayside for months, and jump-starting further discussion at the upper manager’s level.

Challenges often focus on:

  • Budget — “Sounds great, but we just don’t have the money right now”

  • Resources — “I don’t have the team to complete a large-scale deployment like this”

  • Timeliness — “Why now?”

  • Necessity — “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

    • Ask and answer critical questions such as these before moving forward. Successful champions are ready for these challenges with reassuring answers their managers want to hear:

    • “Can we afford to wait with costs rising so quickly?”

    • “We can work together to roll this out”

    • “We’re all on-board”

    • “We have real process problems for which a solution is available.”

      • As an internal champion, the role you assume has its rewards, and can very well make you a company hero. But it also represents hard work and challenges. Following these guidelines can help you become the leader responsible for making a difference. Good luck!

        Author Information
        Mr. Padula is the president, CEO, and founder of Syclo, a mobile computing software provider for the enterprise. Richard has been developing large-scale enterprise applications for more than 15 years. He can be reached by phone at 800.567.9256, ext. 100 or by email at .