By: Dayna Grayson
We were so pleased to be included in an early copy of our friend Natan Linder and Trond Arne Undheim’s release of Augmented Lean. As I’ve watched Natan and his team build Tulip over the years, they’ve led the implementation of a new MES framework for the future — one that obviates the three letter acronym itself and starts with a focus on what matters most: the people doing the jobs. In manufacturing environments, technology and automation is possible but it cannot wholesale replace humans. Rather, technology should augment workers in these environments.
At Construct, we think a lot about how for most of the last four decades, the industrial workforce in this country has shrunk alongside massive underinvestment. Starting in the 1980s, jobs were offshored and manufacturing facilities were downsized, spurring a sustained decline in the number of manufacturing jobs. Now there are supply chain and manufacturing demands that domestic operations cannot meet without quickly integrating new methods and approaches. There is a worker shortage that will only compound as these demands rise and population growth stalls. The best jobs in the best environments where workers are valued will attract the best talent.
Enter the framework in Augmented Lean that Natan and Trond so expertly lay out. Central to this book is the idea that the digital industrial approaches of the last 40 years were misguided. They relied on control through management alignment and centralized digital tools. To attract the best and to produce at the speed required now, tools must not only be digital but also human centric, worker centric. Manufacturers must be able to democratize processes, transforming industrial workers into knowledge workers and equipping teams with the right unobtrusive tools.
My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 6 which compares the Lighthouse approach to the Greenhouse approach to digitalization. The Lighthouse Approach — which spotlights manufacturers who have best practices for factory automation — has the benefit of showing organizations, by example, how others have transformed and how they may follow suit. The downside, however, is that change seems comprehensive and perhaps, daunting to implement. It implicitly requires “strategy consultants, quality coaches, or third party implementers.” Natan and Trond propose an alternative approach: the Greenhouse Approach. This approach, like a greenhouse, focuses on organic development and growth through experimentation. At a board meeting in late 2017, Natan presented the idea of the Tulip Factory Kits where engineers can get started with just a couple thousand dollar investment at instrumenting their factory lines. Four years later, Gartner calls these engineers “citizen developers” and there are now examples of how initial experiments have changed operations in companies across many factory sites.
Tulip has emerged as the leader in how to re-implement digital transformation — by NOT transforming but rather organically empowering change. Congrats to Natan and Trond for documenting their thoughts here and sharing them with the world.