Being Open to Change: Are You a Luddite?

During the 19th century Industrial Revolution, a group of craftsmen known as the Luddites protested change in the manufacturing industry. As machines were being introduced to the textile industry, the Luddites took to destroy it. Today, the term is used as a way of saying someone is against technology.
As I work with manufacturers around Michigan, I see leaders who are and who aren’t open to change. We must work to understand change so that we can avoid being a Luddite and help our company move forward by adopting new technologies.
Some might think, “I’ve done fine without it so why do I need it?” As we are now in the fourth Industrial Revolution, we have seen how technology has allowed businesses to grow and develop into the future. By implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, your company will remain competitive by generating savings to be used for other investments going forward.
As a leader, being open to change is imperative to the success of your business. I keep a quote on my desk that says, “Innovators (i.e., the first individuals in a system to adopt an innovation) tended to be individuals who travel a lot, read widely and have a ‘cosmopolitan’ mindset.”
When visiting small manufacturers who are not open to change, it is often because they are unaware of what is out there. The leadership team hasn’t explored the technologies available or learned how it can benefit them. Those who travel and read often tend to understand what their competitors have. This then exposes them to the cosmopolitan mindset that is open to growth and change.
So, why do we need change? Why even work to adopt a new mindset? Change is an essential part of business. We must remain open to potential ways in which we can improve. If not, others will excel while we are left behind.
In our current supply chain challenge, those who analyze the situation can position their company to take advantage of the changes. We find many companies in growth mode who don’t necessarily grow their net profits at the same growth trajectory. Basically, sales go up and profit goes down. These disparities typically lend to system failures (or lack thereof).
As an example, one of our manufacturers visited a similar company in a different market. The visiting manufacturer didn’t understand how the owner was able to get their staff to use a new operating system. The basic answer was that the owner was just as integrated into the technology as the staff. This owner set an example. Since all employees use the system, it makes it very difficult for someone if they were to choose not to use the technology. Plus, this new system helped them hire a couple employees – even with the tight labor market.
Some of this change is market driven. Growing up in an immigrant family, the attitude toward work was get in early, stay late and do what you are told. However, these dynamics are changing with the next generations of workers who are looking for a work-life balance and flexibility of both hours and location.
In their personal life, these same workers have access to unlimited information to make their life and decision-making easier. Yet, when they arrive at a manufacturing company, they are lucky to access information that will make their job easier. They also find that companies rarely make data-driven decisions and often rely on gut feelings. This leaves new employees at a disadvantage since they are unable to establish a gut feel without being at the company for long.
Before your company explores technology adoption, the leadership team must have the cosmopolitan mindset that is willing to grow and change. Being against change and implementing technology will only hinder your company’s success.
Once leaders have accepted the idea of change and are ready to adopt, it is important to get your team on board. Explain to employees why and how the change is coming and what everyone can do to make implementation successful. Involving the team will help them feel ownership towards the change rather than turn back to a Luddite mindset.
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is here to help you adopt change. See where your company can benefit from Industry 4.0 technologies with our free Technology Opportunity Assessment. We come to your business for a two-hour, 40-question assessment and we will develop a personalized plan for your company. Learn more and schedule an assessment here.
MEET OUR EXPERT: George Singos, Industry 4.0 Business Leader Advisor
Singos_G.jpgGeorge Singos is the Business Leader Advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). He has more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in various capacities. For the past 20+ years, he has focused on sales and marketing management both domestically and internationally. Prior to joining The Center, George spent the previous 10 years working in International Business Development. His ­­primary focus was growing International Sales in Europe and East Asia while supporting North American, South American and ASEAN operations.  
Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Advanced Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Leadership/Culture, Technology