In this post, Jim MacLennan — Executive Director of Information Technology at a large manufacturing company — shows how “Twitter-like” ideas even at high levels of management are starting to really take hold. He walks us into the “so-simple-we-should-have-thought-of-them-ourselves” applications of technologies like YouTube and Twitter on the shop floor, particularly when working towards Lean manufacturing practices. Pointing out that ERP systems are the enemy to Lean production, MacLennan explains:
Computer systems can just get in the way – metrics and measurements that require extra data entry, or inflexible processes that can’t be changed quickly. Much of Lean thinking is common sense and practical, applied thought – computers can over-complicate things!
On the importance of the human, social element in manufacturing, he continues:
It’s difficult to gain insight over the assembly process unless you’re standing at the bench, twisting and turning to reach for components. It’s hard to design practical speed improvements for changeovers if you aren’t there handling the tools / molds. And it’s often extremely difficult to get the folks who know how to do this stuff (operators) to effectively document their work!
Enter enterprise 2.0 applications, “the next-best thing to being there:”
Travel budgets are shrinking, time away from the shop is tough – but all I need is a 5 minute show-and-tell of a process. Why not a quick video? It’s hard to describe how I can easily, visually manage WIP until you stand in that one key spot on the floor, and see how the sight lines to the various workstations all line up perfectly. Why don’t I just show you …
And in my favorite part, he nails it on the head on the simplicity of Twitter in such a realm:
Well, eMails, blogs, and wikis are really just fancied-up documentation tools, and nobody likes to create documentation. But Twitter can be terse, instant, and informal – not too intimidating for the itinerant author. Heck, sending tweets about ideas and observations on the job would be very much like sending text messages from your cell phone, an increasingly common, popular, and non-threatening task. The bonus, however, is that Twitter traffic can be broadcast (unlike your typical point-to-point text) and saved to a database for further review and insight.
(I love the comparison with documentation. It’s principles like this that drive SAP NetWeaver’s current docupedia – SAP’s Help Library meets social media (1) initiative.)
Sounds simple, right? Are there any IT people out there familiar with the hurdles to wide internal adoption of these relevant technologies? Sure there are:
Now, the public YouTube and Twitter sites are probably not the way you want to implement these ideas; much of what we’re Tube-ing and Tweet-ing is company confidential. Corporate IT should get involved – either host it yourselves or properly vet a third party site for access & availability, storage & security.
ESME to the rescue?