Reverse mentoring, digital re-skilling and old PLM habits

Reverse mentoring, digital re-skilling and old PLM habits

We live surrounded by changes and transformations of digital revolution. Which means everything we knew until now can change  – tools, processes, environment and business norms. Think about your everyday procedures 5-10 years ago and now. You will find amazing difference. The amount of digital workflow in our everyday life is skyrocketing and old fashion way of doing things looks really bad.

And here is a good and bad news. These new digital transformation processes are bringing opportunity and challenges. In the past, the most knowledgeable person in manufacturing organization was Mr. John from shop-floor who new the product inside-out for the last 2-3 decades of working in this company. He knew all bits and bytes of whatever happened with this product, he knew what materials and parts to order (doesn’t matter what is in the BOM – the latest BOM is on the cork board anyway).

I can see some changes coming and it will be refreshing in manufacturing. First, new processes will bring new opportunity. What if I get information about cost and parts cost online? What if I can compare cost?  What if I can have a transparency on customer data. What if support call can come to the message of employee who is in transit now? All these questions made me think about what will happen with all “process fellas” and PLM people in manufacturing companies that were focusing on multi-years of PLM roadmap and implementations.

It made me think about investment in reverse mentoring and digital upskilling (or reskilling). If you haven’t read about it, the topic is quite popular these days. Forbes article gives you some idea about what big thinker are bringing up when they speak about changes and digital upskilling.

The world of work faces an epochal transition. By 2030, according to the a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work. The kinds of skills companies require will shift, with profound implications for the career paths individuals will need to pursue.

Another article brings an interesting diagram of investment in retraining. Check this one.

As retraining and re-skilling becomes inevitable, the question about PLM training and changes becomes very important. Until now, PLM systems lived in the world of slow changes and transformations. Not anymore…. Workforce transition will bring changes and new people will come to hLook in the agenda of manufacturing companies (above) and you will understand that PLM people might have a big challenge to keep up in this digital transformation game.

And the question – who will take on the opportunity to educate PLM fellas how to manage information and communication in a new digital eco-system. Sounds like an interesting experiment, which can lead to many consequences. One of them – will PLM as we know move into a digital age? How to un-learn what we knew and get new skills? Who can take on a challenges of getting old fashion PLM people off their everyday analog habits? The most amazing aspect of this transformation is reverse mentoring. Now, the youngest people in the company will be ruling new ways and norms of work and it means that old PLM habits will die sooner than later.

What is my conclusion? Reverse mentoring will be a key element of digital transformation, supporting people in manufacturing companies to move into a digital future. But you should also remember about digital resistance. You can hear it from old fashion people asking if the name PLM should change? I discussed it few weeks ago in Chicago. Name seems to be less important. PLM will be part of a bigger digitaization trend. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased

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  • Lee Perrin

    Your article made me think. I believe the challenge “PLM Staff” face in the next ten years is how to figure out how to eliminate their own jobs. Organizations will look to the future for self sustaining PLM systems that require less and less expertise to run. Think about ways that we could reduce PLM complexity to something as simple as using Excel or Word. Interesting times!

  • beyondplm

    Lee, good question .The real danger to “PLM stuff” is to become so much outdated and self-contained that they can lost relevance. That is the reason I believe in reverse mentoring when younger generation of native digital workers will figure out how to simplify and improve PLM for the next decades.

    Btw, Excel is one of the most complex tools. Remember – Chief Excel Officer?