Pilot purgatory: the eternal merry-go-round

It used to be that a pilot project was a sure-fire way to demonstrate the value of a new way of working and gain buy-in for a full deployment. In an increasingly unpredictable world, it should come as no surprise that organizations are too preoccupied for new ventures. They’re getting nervous about committing to large financial outlays, leading to widespread decision-making paralysis and untethering manufacturing projects leaving them aimlessly galloping into pilot purgatory.

Manufacturing: an evolving industry

Manufacturing is under ever-present pressure to evolve their digital manufacturing in order to reduce margins and operate more efficiently and responsibly, and succeed in a competitive marketplace (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Digital Manufacturing is a top priority for manufacturers

McKinsey&Company - Digital Manufacturing Global Expert Survey 2018

With the advent of Industry 4.0, the smart factory and the capabilities of cloud computing enabling the processing of vast volumes of data, maintenance teams can now operate on a planned, just-in-time basis through Predictive Maintenance (PdM). In addition to increased operational efficiency, this ‘digital manufacturing’ approach brings improved workforce safety, reduced needs for spares inventory, reduced unplanned downtime and extended remaining useful life of machinery through proactive maintenance (fixing issues before they cause damage).

What is pilot purgatory?

Requiring full support from top down, it can often take maintenance team years to get board approval for a PdM pilot. But this is just the first hurdle. Once this initial deployment is underway, it may be that it gets stuck in the pilot stage – it’s still going, and going. But with more pressing issues and a reluctance to commit to the next stage, the board leaves you in pilot purgatory, essentially paralysed. Frustrating? Yes. Unusual? No. A recent survey by McKinsey showed that pilots are common, but rollout is still relatively rare (see Figure 2).

Pilot purgatory can be likened to being stuck on a merry-go-round, knowing you should get off but being unsure how, so you end up haplessly going around and around.

Figure 2: Pilots are common, but rollout rare.

McKinsey&Company - Digital Manufacturing Global Expert Survey 2018_At What Stage are you with adopting specifci Digital Manufacturing solutions_Updated

How to get off the roundabout

1. Don’t get onto it
The easiest way to get off the roundabout is not to get on in the first place! “It’s never going to happen, so forget pushing for a pilot and just settle for what we’ve got.”


2. Know where you’re headed
Having a roadmap is crucial – preparation for this is key. Alongside your pilot proposal to the board, you should also have a longer-term SMART plan – that’s specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timely. This way, you can refer to a single document with transparency on project aims and long-term goals, include sign-off points throughout the initial deployment, and have a clear exit plan for when the final milestone is reached.


3. Have an exit plan
Every pilot needs an exit plan. This should include timescales (for example when the initial deployment will end – whether an end date reached or a measurable objective met), processes to move forward, scaling considerations, and a rollout programme.


4. Don’t forget the end game
Keep in mind the vision that set you on course to maintenance nirvana. What does the end game look like? What measurables would demonstrate the attainment of this goal/s? Regularly reflecting on this future vision is important both to keep you on the right path and also to maintain your motivation during good and not-so-good times. It’s also good to get board buy-in of your future vision, and keep bringing them back to this throughout the project as a reminder of the bigger picture.


5. Keep your supporters cheering you on
Supporters need something to cheer on and retain their interest, so your SMART objectives should include regular milestones to report on. Bringing these milestones to life, creating a narrative as you go, brings statistics alive so don’t forget to build in stories and take your supporters on a journey of discovery with you.

Breaking free

To break paralysis and reduce perceived risk, action needs to be incentivized, making inaction the enemy. How? Taking the steps above will set you on the course for success, but you are still at the beck and call of the board and the environment you find yourself in at the end of the trial.

Senseye has sought to address this with ROI Lock™.  It now guarantees return on investment within 12 months or it will give customers their money back. This revolutionary approach incentivizes action – namely agreeing terms up-front and setting an end date to review the results. This end date is important for a number of reasons: the board will be keen to review the pilot success (whether negative or positive) as there is a financial implication, and it also draws a line under the pilot stage, moving the project on to its next phase – generally a full-blown deployment. A merry-go-round with a fixed timescale and a planned exit route.

Winning the race

Congratulations, you won the race! You achieved your goal!

But remember that winning the PdM race is but the first goal; with ever-evolving technology, your goals will need to be reviewed regularly, flexed and adjusted wherever required.

Reinventing success

Despite the threat of pilot purgatory stalling progress, the importance of an initial deployment in the drive towards Industry 4.0 should not be underestimated. With the right preparation, commitment and mindset, this ‘trial run’ is a critical success factor in the journey to wide-scale Predictive Maintenance. The key is to prepare, take your audience with you and communicate, communicate, communicate.

Find out more about ROI Lock™ or download our white paper on Running an Initial Deployment.

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