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Monday, June 3, 2024

Where Did the Turnkey Solution Go?

I find that many times when discussing digital solutions companies will naturally fall back on the traditional thinking that a technology solution requires a third party integrator or even the technology supplier to provide a "Turnkey" solution. This happens even when there is some level of understanding of the pillars of digital technology. The question is then, where does "turnkey" fit in a paradigm that builds on democratization and bottom up, and a shift towards a more inclusive and user-centric approach? 

Turnkey: A one-size-fits-all approach that stifles innovation

Turnkey systems and automation solution in manufacturing were once the cornerstone of streamlined manufacturing, offering a regimented approach that ensured consistency. This consistency often came at the expense of flexibility.  Imagine a walled garden, where a single vendor controlled every aspect of the manufacturing process, from design specifications to production parameters. While this offered a sense of control, it also created limitations. Customization was restricted to the vendor's offerings, and any deviation from the standard process required significant investment in time and resources. Rapid iteration, a hallmark of modern manufacturing, became a slow and cumbersome process due to the reliance on specialists to make even minor adjustments. Additionally, turnkey solutions can create a knowledge gap between frontline operations and the specialists who manage the system. This can lead to slow response times to production issues and missed opportunities for improvement.

Democratization: Supercharging the workforce 

By democratizing access to powerful tools and advanced technology, manufacturers can unleash a wave of innovation and agility, driven by the collective knowledge and expertise of their entire workforce. One of the key enablers of democratization is no-code and specifically for manufacturing operations these are no-code frontline operations platforms. The beauty of no-code lies in its accessibility allowing  anyone with a basic understanding of the manufacturing process can leverage these tools. This translates to:

  • Faster Innovation: Empower frontline personnel to experiment and improve processes without relying on IT specialists.
  • Enhanced Agility: Rapidly adapt to changing market demands with on-the-go adjustments to production parameters.
  • Improved Efficiency: Reduce bottlenecks and streamline workflows by enabling frontline problem-solving.
  • Boosted Morale: Empower employees by giving them ownership and control over their work environment.

This all means that you can't outsource a digital solution, in the same way that you can't outsource process improvement, NPIs, or continuous improvement. Democratization is a key tenet that ensures powerful tools are accessible to a wider range of users, not just specialists. This empowers those on the front lines, like engineers, to leverage no-code platforms and contribute directly to process improvement. The bottom-up approach values the collective knowledge of the workforce, fostering innovation and agility that traditional, top-down methodologies might miss. Collaborative environments, fueled by democratization and bottom-up thinking, are the foundation for a future where digital technology empowers everyone to contribute. Yet even with this understanding companies are saying; "I want these benefits but can I get it provided "turnkey", I want to pay somebody to do it!"

The Transformation: From turnkey to tailored with an augmented workforce

The typical push back I then hear is that "we don't have capacity", "everybody is busy with other projects", "we only have 2 process engineers and they have their hands full". Yet what do these people do? They typically spend their days buried in spreadsheets, sifting through data, fighting fires because of lack of visibility, or even worse running around the operations collecting data. What democratization offers to them are tools that can help them use this time to create valuable tools to help solve the problems they are already trying to solve. It is not an additional effort, it is a transformational effort and also at the core of Augment Lean.

Transitioning from turnkey to a future that solution are built by process experts using collaborative no-code platform is the key to unlocking the full potential of the digital paradigm. I have mentioned this before; transformation is a journey and the transition away from turnkey is a continuum. Although it is possible to start by outsourcing some of the solution building, remember that at the end of the day no-code platforms empower those directly involved in production to take ownership. Your end goal should be a solution where:

  • Process experts and even operators can adjust parameters on the fly: No need for lengthy coding cycles – a user-friendly interface allows for tweaks and adjustments to optimize production based on real-time data.
  • Quality engineers and supervisors can build custom checks: With drag-and-drop functionality, inspectors can design automated checks specific to each product, ensuring consistent quality.
  • Production managers can tailor their operational systems: No-code tools allow for building automated workflows for material management based on real-time inventory levels and production schedules.

Democratization and no-code technology isn't about replacing specialists; it's about augmenting their expertise. With a no-code platform, engineers can focus on complex system design while operators handle day-to-day optimizations. This collaborative approach fosters a more dynamic and efficient manufacturing ecosystem. This is the premise of digital transformation and why it offers order of magnitude productivity increase. Its not something that can be outsourced, nor can you buy it "turnkey".

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