How are you so burnt when you’re barely on fire? (with audio version)

In her latest piece for WhichPLM, Lucy Blackley shares the links between climate change, wellbeing, and PLM as part of the solution. Lucy is a PLM and Product Development expert, and sits on WhichPLM’s Expert panel. 

The world is burning, and we’re all burnt out. Are the two related? It’s clear they are for those who have suffered wildfires within their communities due to climate change, with the aftermath of these disasters causing trauma to those it has sadly affected.

The buzzwords flying through our industry and others surround climate change, as well as mental health and wellbeing. It’s all well and good promoting it, but are we doing enough to not only raise awareness, but also provide solutions for the two?

Switching to more environmentally friendly materials can help, as can adding a yoga class to the employee perks. But additionally, digital transformation of a company’s processes can further this goodwill to the environment, business employees, as well as giving a boost to the business’ profitability and culture.

Collectively we’re all responsible for both issues. We seem to let things get to almost beyond repair before we act on them, but equally it feels as though our kicking and screaming on any subject falls on deaf ears within our democracies, who could and should be helping to initiate action before we reach boiling point.

“For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything to fight the climate crisis, but we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. We are striking because we have done our homework and they have not.”Greta Thunberg, Climate Change Activist

The same goes for mental health. Our people in power aren’t doing enough, and it’s something we have to take into our hands to apply this change, but putting a post on Instagram isn’t quite going to cut it. Words and actions are two very different things, and even smaller acts can make a huge impact if we collectively work towards the same end goals.

We have technologies that appear to help us streamline our processes, but when you look further, they do much more than that, and for those who aren’t digitally transforming their businesses due to a ‘if its not broken don’t fix it’ mentality, just know that going digital is not a choice. It is inevitable as our world evolves and innovations are brought into the limelight and distributed throughout the population.

“Digital Transformation is not an option, it is not a choice.”David Watson, London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies

If we look at our workforce, and our surroundings, it is broken, and it does need fixing.

Our carbon emissions are out of control, especially within our industry of product creation and sales. We need everything yesterday, and the cost of our impatience is finally paying the price.  We’ve literally been known to fly a singular sample across the world (wrapped in single-use plastic) to be delivered in less than 24 hours to ensure a delivery doesn’t slip.

We’re an industry of pressure; everyone is working at what feels like 100 miles per hour, working 80-hour weeks, skipping lunch breaks, and ensuring material swatch samples are delivered at lightning speed.

We may never have needed to action that time sensitive sample should we be more organised. But how can we become more organised? How can we slow down and still produce quality along with quantity?

Our traditional business set-ups may not appear broken, but with such a mindset, we can become stagnant and lack motivation to improve, yet wonder why we’re not going from strength to strength, and instead just floating along.

There are a million and one things we can do to improve our businesses that will also aid the environmental and mental health issues that surround us daily.

If you’re a product design business, and your company’s idea of technology today is the Windows Office suite, we need to talk.

Product Lifecycle Management systems (and other technologies, like 3D) are the future of product design and manufacturing.

PLM does exactly what is says on the tin: it manages the lifecycle of a product. Why more brands don’t have it (especially in the UK) is completely beyond me, with its array of benefits for the company, the employees, the supply chain, and the environment.

PLM is a framework for product optimisation, which also aids manufacturers by giving access to centralised product records. Teams are able to quickly identify potential sales and revenue contributions that help the business to profit and reinvest in the company, in their technologies, and in their employees.

Furthermore, a PLM can provide documentation that can assist in proving compliance across the supply chain, ensuring rules and regulations are adhered to, to protect the environment, as well as human rights.

A system can also improve forecasting across its business by providing records in planning to reduce material costs and waste through bulk purchasing – saving time for not only the manufacturer but for the whole team as one approval can be recorded and spread across the data within the system. With this, there is a saving through the re-use of original data within the lifecycle management system.

When businesses are organised, everyone within that organisation benefits. With a PLM system in place, there is a togetherness and team spirit as everybody knows what is going on within the lifecycle of their products, and product quality and reliability is increased due to the lack of stress involved in keeping up within a chaotic environment.

With everyone knowing what they are doing, people are able to concentrate on the actual job that they signed up for. Many times I have heard of people feeling like glorified administrators in an industry they originally thought to be creative, By removing this burden and implementing PLM technology, overall we’re increasing the productivity of businesses as a whole.

Productivity is contagious; it’s a positive domino effect, and if a team is aware of what is going on, this passes through to the supply chain, enabling a closer-knit collaboration. This can further improve a multitude of areas such as product speed to market, waste reduction, and more structure which can in turn lead to less last minute sample shipping’s and saving costs through structure along the way.

I am merely scratching the surface on what a system that provides structure can do for a business of any size or model, but a PLM is more than a data entry system. Its existence primarily is there to aid the business but the benefits it gives to employees and other areas are massive.

I’ve been in so many scenarios where people are literally screaming at each other because nobody understands what is going on. Is this the fault of the employees? Absolutely not. As businesses we must take responsibility for our employees who in turn will take care of the business if they feel supported and have the right tools to do the job. With the organisation of a company, and the contentment of the employees in their roles, the collaboration between company and suppliers aids the negative impact we’re having on the environment, helping us to become a more circular industry, and improve on our previous behaviours and practices.

Of course we must do more than just get organised for it to have a natural knock-on effect that help areas that are much in need; we must make choices that are helping to improve these much need current situations. But by digitally transforming you can do more for your business, and this industry, than you’d probably ever imagine, all without thinking about as it happens within the process of using the system.

For those not in the stage of digital transformation, if you look around you, you may see your team doing more fire fighting than anything else, but by embracing technology you’ll open the minds and worlds of business and employees, enabling them to realise and reach their full potential. This will add to your business culture, increase profits within your business, and ensure you stay relevant in this ever growing, ever competitive industry.