Steady, strategic adoption of new technology is vital for your business to continue to grow and meet the needs of your customers. The right technology in your supply chain and warehouses can often mean the difference between competitive advantage and losing market share. Equally important, the implementation approach you choose with respect to the technology can have a significant impact on the satisfaction, safety and productivity of your supply chain workforce.
In fact, the right approach to technology implementation can strengthen workforce engagement and acceptance of the new technology. When properly implemented, new technology such as forklift connectivity can create long-term benefits that outweigh the challenges of the new responsibilities and procedures that accompany it. When anticipated and appropriately managed, the initial reaction some workers may have to the changes introduced by the new technology can be effectively minimized and eventually eliminated as they gain an understanding of the value of the solution to the business.
We’ve identified seven keys to implementing new technologies in your supply chain designed to help you ensure a smooth transition, increase employee buy-in, and set the stage for long-term results that achieve employee and customer satisfaction.
1. Consider the effects on the workforce
You cannot successfully introduce technology in a vacuum with little to no consideration of the employees who will interact with it. Too often, technology decisions are made without input from warehouse managers who are in a position to understand how it might impact supply chain employees.
When done correctly, technology implementation can have a positive impact on employee motivation and engagement. The equipment and technology they use every day can play a significant role in how they perform and how they feel about their jobs.
2. Discuss upcoming changes with employees
While the new technology may deliver long-term benefits for the company, for those on the receiving end, it can represent uncertain change, confusing expectations and added work. You often have a small window to communicate clearly with employees, helping to diminish any uncertainty, fears and resistance.
Set clear expectations and fully explain the planned implementation and benefit to the company. Take advantage of regular team meetings to let employees know what’s coming and how it will help them. Answer questions, address concerns and be frank about the changes the new technology will bring.
3. Plan accordingly to minimize frustration
Challenges in the early stages of implementation can occur when processes haven’t been adapted to the changes the new technology enables. If processes aren’t tailored to the technology, they can break down and the affected employees can become frustrated.
Be mindful of how work is done today without the new technology. Identify opportunities to integrate the technology in a way that respects current processes and the workers that operate within them. Be sure to involve all relevant stakeholders, including safety, operations, maintenance and human resources.
4. Conduct structured, hands-on training
Training is a key component of any implementation. Even solutions that are designed to be intuitive and easy to use benefit from structured, hands-on training that introduces the full capabilities of the technology.
Consider dividing your teams into functional areas of responsibility to maximize the value of the training. Respect everyone’s time and specific interests within their area. Share details of the technology and expectations without overwhelming anyone. After the technology is deployed, consistently follow up to ensure gains are being made and no one has fallen behind. Identify opportunities for additional training or reinforcement and follow through.
5. Engage with employees throughout implementation
Employees are more likely to embrace new technology and the change that comes with it if they feel they are being considered and heard. It may take several weeks for workers to get comfortable and proficient with the technology. Give them ample opportunities to ask questions and share experiences during the implementation. Connect with your informal and formal employee leaders and integrate their feedback.
6. Monitor progress and feedback
The use of a new technology often loses momentum when the initial glow of implementation starts to fade. Managers who were focused during the start-up phase may turn their attention to other issues, thinking that now that the system is up-and-running they are no longer needed.
No technology will magically take hold without reinforcing expectations and accountability at all levels. Maintaining momentum requires accountability and positive feedback, with supervisors consistently responding with actionable steps that drive positive change. For instance, if someone is meeting or exceeding expectations, it is critical to recognize that through positive feedback. Periodic reporting on how everyone is doing is vital.
7. Expand on your early successes
Virtually no technology implementation will achieve its full potential out of the gate. Positive change and growth are achieved incrementally. Create a plan to build on early successes to expand the technology or tackle new business objectives. Get early, quick wins under your belt to gain employee confidence and build momentum. Keep gradually moving the goalposts out over time, so you stretch the organization and pick up new wins along the way.
Experienced technology providers have established processes for planning, training and engaging employees that have often proven effective at transforming resistance into recommendation. In fact, how well you implement new technology can also help manage employee expectations and potentially attract new employees. They see successful technology implementation as a strong sign of a progressive market leader that invests in and listens to its employees and views these relationships as an important competitive advantage.