What if we could harness people’s intellectual capital, instead of replacing them with automation?
Unipart’s ambitious challenge
- For all its people to lead the fourth industrial revolution
The aim is to equip every single employee within the business with the skills they need to be effective in their jobs both now and in the future
“ The aim is to equip every single employee within the business with the skills they need to be effective in their jobs both now and in the future ”
Could a machine do your job better than you?
Digital technologies are certainly disrupting markets and industry sectors, and many companies cut costs by replacing people with automation. But instead of deploying these technologies as a blunt tool to reduce headcount costs, UK manufacturer Unipart is doing things differently.
What if digital solutions could serve to enhance and improve working lives – harnessing the intellectual capital of everybody within a business – rather than replace people completely?
The aim is to equip every single employee within the business with the skills they need to be effective in their jobs both now and in the future, thus securing their own future and that of Unipart.
An ambitious challenge
By developing skills, employees can create innovative digital products and services to provide business growth while enhancing the quality and value in their jobs. This gives the company a competitive edge based on the culture, commitment and creativity of its people.
Unipart’s ambitious challenge – for all its people to lead the fourth industrial revolution – is not a discrete programme, but rather an integral part its operations.
“The pace of technological change is revolutionary and will have massive implications for the structure of industry, company ownership, distribution systems and the regulatory environment in which we work,” says John Neill, Unipart’s chief executive. “Many industry observers are concerned by what they see as a skills gap.
“In 1993, we recognised that, to be competitive, we needed to renew our skills every three years. That is even more relevant today. It is not just digital skills from new recruits; it is the continuous re-skilling of every one of our colleagues that will provide us with the capability for digital innovations to remain relevant in the future.”
An established Digital Team teaches, designs, develops and implements leading technologies to improve profitability, customer service and reduce consumption or waste. But all employees are encouraged to be actively involved in the digital programme.
In fact, teams assess whether they’re working in an environment that promotes innovation and agree a rating. Then, they put together an action plan to create that right environment for innovation.
Sharing ideas and knowledge
Employees share ideas and knowledge through an online knowledge management system – known as Unipart Way On-line (UWOL) – along with a mobile app called SPARK.
Via SPARK, not only do employees share and like other people’s success, but they can also crowd source problem-solving ideas from across the business. Most recently, the firm has launched a new website to inform and engage employees to on the challenges ahead.
Clearly, fostering digital innovation is a real priority, and the company is trying new ideas to do so. For example, one part of the business is piloting Digital Fridays where they set aside time to focus on digital innovation. There are currently over 70 ongoing projects.
In the spirit of sharing, employees who have embraced technology to improve processes and reduce waste, say, are also celebrated through an employee recognition programme.
As a result, by equipping employees with the technical and thinking skills to identify and deliver digital innovation, Unipart can develop new products and services for existing and prospective clients better, faster and more efficiently. This not only enhances its organisational capability but also levels of employee engagement – and therefore productivity. Having highly capable people means getting to work in partnership with other highly capable people to explore new sectors and activities, to the benefit of employees, the business and its communities, says the business.
These skills can be shared through its wider supplier base to improve processes too.