What is pilot purgatory? Pilot purgatory is about getting stalled in the pilot or testing phase of a new technology, and therefore not able to show results and scale the deployment. In this 3-part series we will discuss strategies for industrial maintenance operations teams to avoid pilot purgatory based on the PPT framework (People-Process-Technology). Article one covered “People” so in this article we move on to “Process” and how it’s critical to look deep into the maintenance department’s work structures and tasks as you transform with digital solutions.


Effective Change Management Streamlines Processes


“Technology has helped some companies to boost maintenance-labor productivity by 15 to 30 percent." McKinsey


When companies in heavy asset-intensive industries get digital transformation right, the results are impressive. Not only does labor productivity go up, but so does asset reliability and overall equipment efficiency (OEE).


According to McKinsey, “Digital work management systems have long since proven their value with many companies having boosted their maintenance-labor productivity between 15 to 30 percent...Making the approach work means understanding the specific areas of the maintenance lifecycle where these technologies can add value… And, as with any advanced digital tool, lasting impact is usually possible only when organizations think beyond the core technology and make changes to processes, mindsets, and wider management systems.”


To gain the productivity benefits promised by digital technologies, it is important to address common process issues that can stall or limit results.



5 Common Process Issues That Result in Pilot Purgatory


First, let’s define “process”, which is a combination of actions or steps that generate a specific result. Your company processes are the “how” aspect of digital transformation and are designed to make your industrial maintenance department more efficient. In addition, they provide a level of predictability and consistency. As your organization goes through digital transformation, here are some of the five common process issues that could get you stuck in pilot purgatory.



1. Overlooking the Actual Operational Processes


Before you begin the digital transformation process within your department, take the time to assess where the maintenance department is in their processes and what are the dependencies. Often digital transformation projects are focused on deploying technology to change a process for one functional team. But the reality is that the processes are quite integrated and dependent upon engagement across organizational functions. To avoid getting stalled, all stakeholders need to be involved and on-board even if the impact to their team is expected to be minor.



2. One-and-Done Process Belief


When the technology is rolled out, you are not done, now the real work begins to foster solution adoption, training, set new goals, redefine roles, and update collaboration procedures to codify the new way of working.


So, keep digital transformation in perspective. Often, it’s a long and lonely process that can take a toll on your team. To avoid this, plan for battle fatigue and be specific about the timeline and goals for the project. Typically, projects like these begin with the help of external players like outside software providers and digital transformation consultants. At some point, however, they will leave. When that time comes, your internal players must already be ready to step up to the plate and continue the process.



3. Making the Tech Work Like the Old Process


Being wed to the past is not only a people issue, but an issue of replacing standard operating procedures. Often team members involved in evaluating a new solution will look at it as an enhancement of the systems it is replacing. The reality often is that the new workflow can be significantly different than the traditional way of working in order to reap the benefits of digitization.


For example, replacing paper-based work orders with a mobile device, completely cuts out the printing and collating of work orders with repair instructions. This also cuts the technician’s routine to start the day by picking up the work orders before travelling to the work site. The time savings is clear. But what if the manager usually held a quick meeting with the technicians at the office while they were there to pick—up the work orders? It would be unfortunate to not define a new way to cover the quick meeting objectives in order to gain the benefit of reducing the time lost travelling from site to site.



4. Treating Your Solutions Provider as Just a Technology Provider


You are not just implementing a technology you are implementing a new way of working. To define your new processes, you need a vendor who will be your partner in the journey. Your team may be inspired about the possibilities, but they will never have the depth of insight into the new software system as the people who created it. Leverage your provider to make sure you are getting the most benefit out of the technology as you redesign your work procedures.



5. Avoiding Integration with Your Own Systems 


Integrating new technologies into existing infrastructure is a known bottleneck and a significant cause of delays and even failure of digital transformation initiatives. It is tempting to consider avoiding the problem by implementing a new solution as a standalone initiative. The problem of course is that integration of data between systems is inevitable. Creating a data silo only creates confusion between groups and more work to manually update core systems.


In a company with SAP ERP for example, real-time integration of data between operational systems is critical. Take our example of a mobile app for technicians. The power of the fully digital system is to be able to view new notifications and work order status real-time in SAP not only by the maintenance team, but production, procurement, and finance.



How Do You Escape Pilot Purgatory With Your Processes?


Digital transformation is a team sport, and it's essential to work together closely to create the best possible outcomes. If you’re currently designing and implementing new processes for digital transformation, keep the following in mind:



Know Where You Are in the Current Processes


In order to create a vision of the new working model, it helps to know where you are at. What are your current paint points and challenges with your current process? What is working well and where are the key dependencies with other departments?


McKinsey adds to this point, “In the design and implementation of the new system and processes, successful organizations take a perspective that is both value-centric and user-centric. While the overriding aim is to reduce waste and address pain points for the business, that won’t happen if adoption is poor. Therefore, successful systems must also make life easier for of users, such as maintenance and operations staff or external contractors. That requires a good understanding of their working practices, challenges, and pain points.”


A good example is Cenibra, a company processing wood pulp and producing paper products. Cenibra did an exhaustive evaluation of their maintenance processes before adding a planning and scheduling automation mobile interface to SAP PM. What they uncovered was a lot of in-efficiencies as they were managing their maintenance processes completely and redundantly outside of SAP. This created information delays and lack of visibility to work status, plus duplicate work to enter data into SAP. As a result, they had challenges to track the backlog and for financial accounting and auditing of service contractors.


After fully mapping their current processes, they were able to define their specific pain points for the vendor to support in customizing the app. This included tracking the service contractor hours and automate the calculation of costs with built-in formulas within the Mobile EAM app. The data was updated in real-time in SAP PM which then automatically generated purchase orders to be approved in SAP-MM. The new digital process significantly improved data accuracy and reduced resources needed in procurement and maintenance resulting in less overtime and contractor expenses.



Chunk-off Manageable Pieces


As they say, “don’t eat the whole elephant in one bite”, don’t digitally transform everything at once. It’s important to take deliberate steps when implementing software to make sure your teams are actively involved. Focus on a few routines or processes at first, then slowly add more to the initiative. Select a process that is particularly tedious and time-consuming as adoption will be quick and the results can be easy to measure to illustrate results.


Ingredion chose to start their digital transformation by adding a planning and scheduling automation solution to their SAP operations. There were just a few managers involved in this process and they were particularly motivated to replace their process of manipulating spreadsheets for 2 days each week. As a result, they were able to complete the work in 1-2 hours each week. This time savings was visible to senior management along with the new reports and depth of information they could easily access.


As a result of the positive experience, the operations team was motivated to take the next step to replace paperwork orders with mobile devices impacting a wider swath of the organization in the process changes and resulting in further success.



Redesign Processes for Digital


McKinsey found that those companies that “modified standard operating procedures to include new digital technologies” were 1.8X more successful in their digital transformation. A good place to start is with a ready-made, proven solution. Avoid too much customization at the beginning to test out and experience the digital-based processes.  You may quickly find that you can minimize the customizations or avoid them altogether as the new digital process proves out to be.


As you redesign processes and fully internalize the impacts of new digital workflows, consider the implications to the definition of roles and responsibilities of the staff. Some jobs may completely go away, and others can be revised to manage more work.


For example, the electricity generation company Furnas was able to improve the time available of high-level staff to add more technical responsibilities to their jobs. In addition, they reallocated 46 admin and technical workers to other functions all as a result of deploying a mobile EAM solution to their SAP EAM environment.


See our article, Effective Change Management to Avoid Pilot Purgatory, Part 1: People, for more best practices related to roles and responsibilities.



Process Transformation Success


Join the ranks of those companies that succeed in digitally transforming their industrial maintenance processes. Consider the best practices for effective change management with your people, process, and technology to avoid pilot purgatory. And stay cognizant of the factors that can stall or limit results and you too can reap the benefits of digital transformation productivity and cost savings across your operations.



Get Effective Change Management Help


Sigga has 20 years of experience in industrial maintenance processes. In fact, we began our company as a professional services firm and then specialized in EAM software products to bring automation and mobile workflows to SAP. We are adept at working with digital transformation teams to take full advantage of the power of fully digital work processes.


Hear more about how Ingredion drove effective change management of their processes resulting in digital transformation success. Watch excerpts from our webinar, Planning and Scheduling, a Strategic Approach. And download our Cenibra and Furnas success stories to read about their challenges and results with Sigga EAM solutions.


Our Mobile EAM and Warehouse apps digitize core processes to manage work orders and warehouse goods movements while our planning and scheduling solution automates routines to improve preventive maintenance programs. Our clients have seen productivity results from 15% to over 50%.


Contact us to learn more about how we can help you. Together, we can drive effective change management of your processes to get results and avoid pilot purgatory.


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