Flexibility for Fixed-Site Jobs Pt II: A Top Down & Bottom Up Approach

September 30, 2022



Flexibility for Fixed-Site Jobs Pt II: A Top Down & Bottom Up Approach

Flexibility for Fixed-Site Jobs Pt II: A Top Down & Bottom Up Approach

Trond Undheim, futurist, speaker, entrepreneur, venture partner, and the author of a new book, Augmented Lean in this second episode gets to the practical details of how flexibility can be achieved in manufacturing plants after a 50 year innovation hiatus. Trond draws on his industrial tech background, understanding of manufacturers’ realities, and recognition of frontline workers’ expertise to develop flexible, augmented environments. He recommends balancing inputs from both employees on the shop floor and management to “hack and govern” new solutions. Trond acknowledges these are long term paradigm shifts.


[02:57] Trond explains the deskless reality for factory workers results from forgetting to innovate for 50 years.

[05:00] Adding multiple screens gives employees the data they need and freedom to walk around.

[05:36] How no code technology now allows data to be widely available and accessible.

[06:26] Up to date information augments workers’ intelligence and real-time operational decisions.

[07:03] The first killer application is digital work instructions.

[07:52] Tech advances enable empathetic learning as feedback is immediate and uncontentious.

[09:44] Augmented lean approaches technology integration in a smarter way—top down and bottom up.

[10:54] Governance is an essential aspect of modern organizations.

[11:42] The problems arising with top down only technology integration.

[12:57] The benefit of bottom up analysis of bottlenecks and operating needs.

[13:51] The advantage of workers’ general understanding of operations and cross-training.

[14:38] In manufacturing, employees have to be learning on the job, on site.

[15:27] How can we expect an innovative workplace if the tools do not augment workers?

[16:32] Greenfields permit shortcuts so workers can add digital apps to legacy systems.

[17:44] What to do with legacy machines.

[18:39] Taking a First Principles approach to production based on value creation.

[19:10] Augmented lean is about context and flexibility.

[20:32] “Hack and Govern” – hacking is bottom up and governing is top down.

[23:58] Apps-based productivity in this digital revolution needs a certain amount of flexibility.

[24:56] Empowering and inspiring frontline workers to show their experience and improve ROI.

[26:15] How to get new workers interested in manufacturing jobs in the US.

[28:08] What is factory work like now? What do factories look and sound like?

[32:43] What does Trond think about Musk’s edict “return or resign”?

[34:25] Backlash or not, managers have a losing proposition trying to get everyone back to the office.

[35:44] This decade, Trond does not see factory work being done 100% on site.

[37:12] With significant advanced technologies, the shop floor has more pull than office environments.

[38:52] New fluid interfaces that interact with workers—the factory floor wasn’t ready at first.

[42:01] With cyber-physical systems, ‘prototype to product’ is not easy and can take time.

[43:42] The vision of “lean” in Trond’s new book.

[44:54] Did we take a wrong fork in the road away from cyber-physical systems in the 1970s?

[46:22] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Rinse and repeat! Use quick iterations to experiment your way through to positive change. Hack and Govern: the juxtaposition of bottom-up and top down approaches for a more balanced outcome.


“If the tools that we are providing to the workforce don’t augment them, don’t make them feel meaningful, don’t give them dignity, and don’t give them knowledge, how can we expect to have an innovative workplace?”

“You have to govern technology … but on the other hand, the internet revolution is all about hacking, it is about bottom-up initiative, about enabling your smartest nerds — who nowadays can be someone who didn’t study computer science.”

“There are so many exciting factories right now … they have robots, they have digital interfaces, factories don’t look like you might imagine they do!”

“Tesla is today’s Ford — it is not a virtual organization of software programmers — Tesla produces something physical, they have factory floors, in fact, they have some of the world’s biggest factories that they just opened in Texas.”

“Software is easy, cyber-physical systems are hard.”

“Think in sprints, allow hacks, don’t forget to govern.”

“There is no management of workers that doesn’t include letting them experiment and try out new things, and there is no responsible management approach that lets everyone do their own thing.”