Wrightstudio/Dreamstime
Information exchange

Improve Information Exchange to Cope with Crises

June 1, 2020
Adopt digital systems to enable remote work and access to critical data in real time.

“It’s business as usual, until it’s not!”

That’s how Brian Sallade started out as he characterized the response manufacturers had at the onslaught of the pandemic. As president and CEO of engineering and information management firm Kinsmen Group, he has given the road to recovery some thought.

He explained that Kinsmen Group had been fielding calls from people who are in a panic to solve information management problems. “Generally, they don’t want to hear about a long-term plan, but only what we can do to help them fix this problem today,” Sallade said. “It’s a good conversation starter.”

Under typical circumstances the manufacturing industry finds it difficult to adopt new procedures and tends to have paper-laden, manual processes because this has worked for them for many years, explained Sallade. “Sometimes, they adopt new technology without changing their processes to maximize the effectiveness,” he added. Sallade’s repertoire of companies he’s helped develop successful information management services for include General Motors, Hydro One, New York Power Authority, Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Pfizer and Koch Industries.

“If you already have chaos and adopt a new document management system without adjusting your processes, you will only have faster chaos,” he said.

Address Risks at the Source

Sallade contends the impact on businesses that aren’t effective in supplying their products to industry are immediate. “Improperly managing documents in the manufacturing industry can have severe consequences—from a halt in production to a safety incident or the death of an employee,” he said.

The result is a compound effect on the supply chain and economy. “Take for example the near closing of the meat industry and the potential impact that would have had on the supply chain and our entire economy,” said Sallade.

His advice to companies in the aftermath of COVID-19? Start by assessing requirements and minimally implementing a system and an IT infrastructure, or secure a cloud-based system that allows them access to critical documentation. And if manufacturers don’t have the bandwidth to assess their document management approach on their own, they might want to hire a partner that specializes in information and document management.

Build a Roadmap

According to Sallade, the long-term effects of paper or manual processes and a lack of digital access include delayed information exchange, decreased accuracy and increased operational and safety risks. That’s because major events and challenges such as COVID-19 tend to expose gaps and stress points in organizations. “Those not sufficiently strong enough may not live to see another day to fight,” said Sallade. “Those that make it through this will have to take a hard look at how to improve their processes and systems to ensure they are better prepared next time something unexpected comes along.”

With the hindsight of experience, including stints spearheading SNC-Lavalin Group and BlueCielo ECM Solutions, Sallade is adamant that with technologies available today companies don’t have an excuse for not being prepared to have their employees work remotely. “Those companies not willing or able to make these investments may not be around long,” he said, pointing out that all asset-intensive industries that maintain large facilities or plants—such as oil & gas, pharmaceuticals and chemicals—have been hit hard.

Defining and implementing a digital strategy for managing documents in the short-term, depending on the complexity of the business, can be done in a couple of months. For the longer term a more thorough approach to analyzing and implementing a solution should be taken, Sallade advises. With an analysis of the information and documentation, priorities can be set and focus put on what is most important to the business. This process can take six months or longer for large complex businesses.

“The most important thing to do is to get started and work with a partner that has the experience to help make your project a success, knowing what’s important, what isn’t important and to build a roadmap to how you get there,” Sallade explained. “Like most things, it becomes about a process and having the discipline to properly execute on your plan.”

Invest in Resilience

A lessons-learned analysis of how business handled the COVID-19 crisis is critical for manufacturers at this time, said Sallade, warning it is important that manufacturers “don’t stick their heads in the sand and continue on with business as usual again, or next time they might not make it through.”

Instead, he recommends now would be a good time to secure a digital strategy that optimizes facility operations through improved information, document management and control, which will allow companies to ramp up and diversify production as the tide turns. “COVID-19 is a wakeup call to doing business differently—doing it better!” he said.

Kinsmen Group provides engineering information management services to asset-intensive industries. Click here to learn more.

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