“The importance of engaging your team throughout your first digital transformation project” – Interview With Gavin Goates, The CEO of PCML Ltd.

Gavin Goates is the founder and CEO of PCML ltd, a manufacturing company that has grown from one to seventeen sites since being founded in 2000. With a closely knit team of one-hundred-and-twenty people, Gavin has always placed a great emphasis on the importance of culture and shared purpose. We met with Gavin to learn how this affected his approach to implementing a robotics campaign and the key lessons he has learnt from the process

Question 1 – What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your Digital Transformation experience?

“I think firstly, people have to understand that the artificial intelligence, the robotics we’re using, you have to simplify the process to the nth degree. Don’t consider that it can be able to think for you, it has to follow a process. I think the other thing you really need to learn is about your people, you have to have a level of empathy, you have to assure them from the get go that its not about replacing their jobs. You do that really through three way. The first is by giving them a level of control, you know at the end of the day people are going to turn around and say to you that it doesn’t do as well as me but they see in time that it does and it does it consistently and it doesn’t make mistakes. Secondly its about being open and transparent that it’s not there to replace your job, actually we want to keep the team small and this is going to take away your small, mundane work. And then thirdly its all about keeping them informed, this is when it’s going to happen. So for me, I’ve learnt a lot.”

Question 2 – What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting?

“I think the one thing I would’ve liked to have known before I’d started really was how long it was probably going to need me to be involved for. You know I think very simply we think it’s just a case that it’s going to be coming into the workplace and you’re going to be able to get it underway with immediate effect. At the end of the day its got to go through a process and you’ve got to really step and map out that process and make sure you’ve ticked all of your boxes because we as humans do things that sometimes we’re not very good at, procedure and writing down. So thats the one thing I take away.”

Question 3 – How have you measured the success of your digital transformation?

“Firstly, you have to look at the fact that we haven’t had to employ any more people, indeed. We’ve taken on three other businesses so now from an invoicing perspective; with one company we were using one and a half people to do the processing of the invoices in the PI invoice matching. Now we have four companies and now we’re doing it with half a person, saving up to ten hours a week and from the delivery schedule point of view, myself and a colleague used to work 20 hours a weekend doing delivery schedules. Now we can do it in 6 hours using the robot and one man, so we’ve got our work and life balance back.”

Question 4 – Aside from the financial benefits, what are some of the other positives you’ve taken from the experience?

“There are lots really. First and foremost you’ve got to think that robotics can operate 24/7, therefore improved productivity. You’ve also got risk compliance and regulatory compliances you know they don’t need to go to the toilet or any form of absenteeism. Ultimately it all flushes through to the bottom line and increases your profits so lots of exciting things to take away.”

Question 5 – How did you choose the project that you started with?

“I think the first thing is the importance of getting the team involved and engaged from day one. So what we did was drag all the key stakeholders into a room. We played some games and came up with a few ideas and ultimately, between us, we identified 31 projects that effectively we can use robotics for. We then honed that down to 2, but there’s still 29 that we can use it for. So engaging them, keeping them informed, holding their hand through the whole process, being open and transparent. It is the way forward.”

Question 6 – Did you encounter much resistance internally, and, if so, how did you counter that?

“The first thing you have to consider is the fact that in the T-Impact process, they obviously come up against that type of resistance every single day. They’re really honed and trained in how to deal with that and because it’s collaborative, right from the outset as a team, you get them and you play some games and some teamwork that goes on to decide the projects that potentially can use robotics for. But being open with people, collaborating with people, keeping them informed of progress, reassuring them, holding their hand through the whole process. Ultimately they will take ownership of it and when they do, you recognise your goals at their best.”