Key Trends and Challenges for the Next Decade in Organizational Transformation (Podcast)

AI. Automation. ESG. Machine Learning. The current rate of disruption taking place across industries and verticals can be overwhelming.

But today, Consultya Managing Director Ahmed Elkomy rejoins the Strategy Simplified podcast to simplify matters. In the conversation, Ahmed breaks down critical organizational transformation trends taking place inside the industrials sector.

  • Organizational transformation trends to know
  • Key challenges industrials organizations are facing today
  • How automation is affecting the industrials space
  • Organizational transformation best practices
  • The importance of upskilling
  • Pitfalls to avoid

See the links below to learn more about how Consultya partners with industrial organizations to transform their operations.

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Transcription: Key Trends and Challenges for the Next Decade in Organizational Transformation

MC: Namaan Mian 

Ahmed, welcome back to Strategy Simplified. We are really excited for part two of our conversation today on the trends taking place right now in industrial transformation. For folks who haven’t heard from you for a while, or are maybe tuning in for the first time, can you just quickly give us a sense of your background and the consulting firm that you run?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Thanks, Namaan. I’m really happy and excited to be here today. So my name is Ahmed. My background is in engineering. Early in my career, I had some front line roles as a plant manager, I then got into consulting, started cutting my teeth with Partners in Performance in Australia where I spent about seven years, growing into an Associate principal.

Then I had a super early midlife crisis and went back to uni for a couple of years just to escape work. Then, I got back and I joined DuPont Sustainable Solutions. I was a partner there for a couple of years. And then as of 18 months ago, I started my own consulting firm, Consultya, with the intent of continuing to serve industrial clients with ops transformation type services. And that’s where I’m at today.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Wonderful. I think that’s a fantastic 30 second synopsis of a long and distinguished career. Very consulting-like in your answer. Before we talk about the trends in the space, can you first talk to us about operational transformation inside of industrials, let’s just define the term and really, the space and what we’re talking about today.

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And let me start with what it’s not, okay. So it’s not your typical type of consulting that you’d be familiar with in the MBBs, or the Big 4’s where a lot of it is really numbers heavy, you get a nice seat in the in the boardroom, or a big meeting room where you crunch a lot of data. And you come up with a big massive report full of recommendations that you drop at the client, and then walk away with a high five saying good luck. Or, in the instance of where it’s taken a bit further with the MBBs and Big 4s is let me come and help you run the PML. So they get an and they establish a big PMO running sometimes hundreds of initiatives. In my experience, running the organization into an absolute frenzy and a lot of consulting fatigue. So where ops transformation typically comes in is after that consulting storm had taken place and millions have been spent.

A lot of the time, they’ll come back to that type of consulting, the ops consulting or the ops transformation type work where they say, can you please help us get some results, because a lot has happened. There’s all these dashboards, but my bottom line hasn’t actually moved for all intents and purposes, what happens very well, is a lot of gutting when it comes to cost. Okay, so all restructures, spending with suppliers and supply chain that all tends to come pretty well from the MBB and Big 4 cohort.

So they do really well when it comes to gutting an organization and cutting costs. But it leaves it leaves the operation in a state of fatigue, it leaves it in a state of it’s basically unsustainable, you know, going through top down benchmarking, and restructuring of organizations, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of context into it. And the organizations tend to not really perform very well. So our transformation is really more of the reengineering of say, your processes, your systems and your structures. And it’s working side by side with the line to transform and change the behaviors change the way they work, to basically get an organization at the end that’s a lot more efficient, that’s a lot more cost effective.

So that you get to meet your customer expectations, and you get to grow your revenue and your bottom line and it allows you to then remain competitive and resilient. So to really simplify, it ops transformation is the type of consulting that solely focused on delivering a sustained bottom line result for an organization, that is a lot less about having less people, but more about getting more out of the people and the assets that you have. So you sweat the assets, in terms of equipment and people, and you make the place more productive.

MC: Namaan Mian 

I really like the way that you framed that, talking about ops transformation almost being like a rejuvenation of the business and of the environment after pretty drastic change and cost cutting, really bringing things back to life and here’s how they’re going to now grow and operate in a sustainable way moving forward, that’s a unique spin on ops transformation, I haven’t necessarily heard worded like that way before.

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

I find myself man having them and having to come in and defend myself in the first week to say I’m not cutting toes, I don’t have an axe, I’m not the toe cutter, I’m not the axe man, I’m not coming in and out, everyone’s keeping their job. In fact, in some instances, the top down has been so harsh, that to make it sustained, you might ask to come back a bit and bring in a few more people, but I’m here to build capability, make you succeed, put you on the track, show you how to get there help you get there, which is a really different spin.

So consulting has a really bad taste in a lot of industrial organizations. And it’s almost like a fresh breath of air when you come in and you say, Hang on, buddy, I’m on your side, this time around, we’re bottom up, you know, we’re coming in, I’m with the crowds, I’m with the masses. And we’re gonna come in, and we’re gonna do this together. And we’re gonna show the guys at the top how awesome everyone is. So it’s a really different spin to have been parachuted in to tear it apart, versus let’s all get together and really make this place the best place to work in that we can all be proud of, right?

MC: Namaan Mian 

So let’s bust right into it. You work with industrial clients around the world, you witness the challenges of transformation day in and day out. Can you talk us through a couple of trends you’re seeing play out in the space right now that organizations both in the industrial space and perhaps beyond should be aware of?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, so a massive trend that we’re seeing in Australia, but also globally is a high staff turnover. There is an incredible high demand and pressure on, say, the resourcing sector. So as much as we’d like to think that the pressure on wanting to reduce environmental and carbon footprint would result us in being less industrious, the reality is quite the opposite. We need a hell of a lot of nickel, and lead, and titanium and a lot of minerals that’s actually going to fuel the renewables and industry that’s taking place, that revolution in Australia that we’re seeing, so that the press on resourcing has never been more significant. Okay, so in Australia, we’re opening up mining and leases. And it’s going gangbusters, even here in Queensland, right, and across the world, the pressure is on for all those minerals.

And what that’s resulted in is a lot of demand on staff. And what that results in is high staff turnover over and because it’s a commodity people tend to gravitate towards where I’m paid the most. And where I can spend the least amount of time away from home. Because it’s a commodity at the end of the day, right? So it really comes down to that. And this high staff turnover is actually quite challenging. And what it means is, you let’s say you invest in building systems in building a lot of capability, you get in a consulting house, and you do so much work, you lose most of that value when two or three or four key stakeholders are gone. And that’s a lot of the time what happens, so I was just doing a diagnostic add at a lead and silver mine, I just got home last night. And the biggest challenge they’ve had in terms of why has all this turned over, Well, in the last 18 months, we’ve lost so many people.

And when people go, a lot of that goes away with them, you gotta remember a lot of those industrial companies, say in mining, for example, or metals, it’s still somewhat labor intensive. It relies on people doing a lot of stuff. And they’re incredibly complex organizations with a very complex value chain end to end, you’ve got to drill, you’ve got to blast, you’ve got to mine, you’ve got to haul, you’ve got to crush, you’ve got to process, you have to smelt, you have to take that to a ports, you have to manage the port and give it to the end customer. It’s incredibly, incredibly complex. And people still play a key role in this. So high staff turnover has been a major challenge in industry at the time.

The other key trend that I’m starting to get really pleasantly surprised with is is a lot of the automation that’s been taking place and the digital tools that has been deployed at various levels. So let me unpack that one a bit. So with automation, you’ve got mines in Australia now, where you will drill and blast, load the back of a truck, have the truck drive and go all the way from the pit, you know, doing the rounds going all the way to a crushing unit and having the material getting crushed and transported to a processing plant. Having that offloaded into the back of a rail and getting a railway wide going 300 kilometers to a port without the single intervention of a human.

Okay, it’s fully automated. So the trucks are autonomous, the loading equipment’s autonomous, then entire operation’s autonomous and what you’ve got now is a bunch of operators and skilled people working centrally in the hub. It’s almost like a NASA type setup where you’ve got screens, and you’re managing the equipment remotely. And it’s quite incredible how powered automation has quickly crept in, and again, those companies are mitigating for the fact that I cannot rely on high skilled labor in these remote parts of the world, I need to be able to move forward. And what’s better than that, basically, automating the trucks, so you don’t need operators anymore to drive equipment or to operate graders or dozers or anything of the sorts.

So there’s a really cool change, even automation, that’s they can add, that’s obviously changing the way you manage the operation, it’s changing the way you prioritize how you manage your operation. And then, you know, the last two engagements I was on were just seeing some of those digital tools that are deployed to the frontline. So two days ago, I was at a startup, you know, at 6am, the supervisor’s kicking off the shift with the frontline workers. And he’s got five massive screens behind them, and it’s all touchscreen now. So you know, everything’s moved away from the good old whiteboard and the red and the green pens to, you know, the green KPIs, and the red on the performing KPIs, etc. And everything’s digital now.

And behind those screens is a pretty complex data system that’s integrated to pull in all the information that you need to bring it to you on the spot. So the safety system comes in. So I’ve got my safety metrics, I’ve got my  environmental metrics, I’ve got my production metrics, on my I’ve got my risks, and all of those different databases. And not too long ago, you had to bring in the fancy consultants to come in and link up the spreadsheets and do a whole bunch of lookups. And do also a bunch of data analysis and, and a lot of that is becoming obsolete pretty quickly.

So it’s interesting, I’m already seeing with machinery, the role of the operator in the future is going to change quite substantially, there’s going to be a lot less demand on operators as it practically fizzles over time. And you can also see that role of the analyst being the person that has to sit there and do a lot of that data crunching and see looking up on a lot of that’s disappearing very quickly, because you’re not able with BI reporting, etc, to tap directly into these databases and extract the stuff that you want in a fraction of the time. And it just sustains. So you know, two big trends I’m seeing the taking place as well. The third and the last massive trend is culture, you’ll hear that still coming up quite substantially.

You gotta remember industrial organizations, they’re not exactly the type where everyone’s having caramel infused, like those free lattes, sitting on beanbags, with a table tennis setup behind them, that’s not it, right. It’s pretty industrious, it’s pretty tough. But it attracts all sorts of different talents, all sorts of corners from society. And so to be able to bring in, and we’re talking about hundreds and sometimes 1000s of people in a single place, all coming in with a different background and a different way of working and a different perspective. And to try and homogenize the culture and homogenize the way that we think in terms of we’ve got to be safe, we’ve got to think before we do stuff, we’ve got to look after each other, how do we become a lot less of a complaint culture, which is, you know, I do stuff because someone’s gonna watch me and I’ll be reprimanded for it, to how do I become a little bit more independent, which is I’ll do the right thing, even if no one’s watching, because that’s the right thing to do.

And how do I go from there to being interdependent, which is how I also make sure that my buddy and my team also doing the right thing, and not just me, that’s a pretty complicated journey. And well, that’s so important now because all my eyes are on now spotlights are on we’ve got, you know, a few general managers of operations that are in court in Australia, because we’ve had deaths, we’ve had major injuries and so the level of accountability that has now taking place, it’s not really a joke, not that it was before, but the level of scrutiny now is so much higher, like you’re a general manager, or vice president of an industrial operation, and, yep, you’re paid handsomely. But oh my god, it is a pretty complex cake. Okay.

Noise levels, environmental footprint, harming people, harassment at work, bullying at work. There’s so much at stake. And every little news now, as you can imagine, it’s all over the news. Why? So it’s a big deal now to try and get culture to be stronger than anything. So I come into the organization, and my behavior changes instantaneously. So yeah, two to three key challenges I see here, the high staff turnover is a big deal. How do we retain the best people and how do we rely less on people and more on systems? That’s one, two is the automation and the digital tools that are taking in, so lots of reliance on machinery and the analysts level. And the third one is the culture, how do we make sure that we’ve got that culture that’s going to help us propel into the future with all its challenges?

MC: Namaan Mian 

So I want to unpack that a little bit. And some of what you said surprises me and some of what you said doesn’t. The high staff turnover not surprising. In a vacuum, the automation, also not surprising. And the focus on culture, also not surprising. But my hypothesis coming into our conversation was that this was a less automatable industry than some others out there. And what you’re telling me is that we’re able to remove human inputs from so many facets of the value chain, that we’re able to take a material from a mine to a processing plant to the next kind of distribution point without any human interaction. So is that leading to an increase in efficiency and productivity in how much I’m able to mine in a certain day? Can you talk to me about the kind of business impact of this automation that we’re seeing in the space?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Correct. So one of the one of the challenges up front, as you can imagine is, if you’ve got the infrastructure setup, and the costs are sunk in some way, shape or form, it would never make economic sense to scrap all that away and automate. And that’s the problem, right? Most of the guys out there are up and running already. Okay, so the few ones that are going through the expansion are basically, you know, getting new dirt, and turning that into an operation, getting new leases and all the rest of it. They’re the ones that have the advantage. So there are pretty large organizations in Australia that have had the advantage, like Rio Tinto, for example, who’ve got expansions, there’s massive demand for iron ore from China, there’s a lot of iron ore in Western Australia, I’ve got the approval to go for it. So if you start from scratch, it’s a big capital outlay, obviously.

But if you look at your opex, so your capex is up, but your opex is a lot is a lot less as well now, because your average operator in this country can sit anywhere between 100 grand to 140 grand a year, that’s how much an operator is paid to drive a truck, because the demand, now imagine, you know, you don’t need 30 of those or 50 of those anymore, and you don’t need all the operators out there, etc. So your opex tanks, you productivity is higher, you’re now inherently much safer operation so that the element of risk also disappears. But so why are you more productive? Well, think of the human, right, coming into the shift, you got to shift start them, right, you got to do the pre start the safety, share, and allocate work and give them the company update.

And what’s happened in the last shift and  so that disappears. So there’s half an hour, another game half an hour, and a complex operation like this is a lot of time, normal crib breaks, I don’t need to stop for crib, you know, twice a shift. So that’s a big deal. And it’s never the crib, it’s the half hour you lose before the crib getting to the crib, and it’s the half hour you lose after the crib getting back into the operation. And humans being humans, they like to take their time, before, during and after crib and all the rest of it. Complex processes. Like it sounds pretty simple, but shift change, for example, it’s pretty complicated when you’re trying to get 100 people to do this across equipment, you lose a lot of time, because a lot of productivity, now that disappears, you know, so you have all these elements of what’s typically called utilization of availability. So think of you’ve got 24 hours in a day. And the first hit on the hours is the availability, my equipment has broken down, my engine won’t start, etc, that’s availability, let’s say you take four hours out, or they’ve got 20 hours in a shift that you can actually run where the equipment is available, normally five hours out of that are gone in what’s called utilization or human delays.

So all that now disappears. So you’re really left with maintenance, and you’re left with refueling. And all of these other complexities have gone which is pretty intense. Now you know, the element of fatigue, etc. is not factoring in the amount of the accident damage that you get with humans being there. So you’re talking about a sleep that is done to be inherently by design, a lot more productive, a lot safer, and a lot cheaper to run data that’s the major change, that changes the economics of the entire operation. Now, the capital outlays big upfront, but the opex is a lot less, the productivity is a little higher.

MC: Namaan Mian 

That’s huge. If there’s 20 available hours in the day, and I’m getting five of those hours back, that’s a 25% boost in my productivity before anything else

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Per a truck, for example, or per bit of gear, times 30, 40, 50 of those in a day is humongous.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Wow. So, Ahmed, I think that’s an important distinction you made before between, look, the operations that are already up and running that have already invested in the capex that’s needed to set up their processes in a human centric way, they’re gonna stay with a model that works for them. And it’s the new projects they’re going to move forward with this automation and advanced technology. So my thinking is okay, then the pace of change in the space is going to be slow. Because some of these human centric mining and industrial operations are years and decades in the making. And so can you just speak to what you think the pace of transformation is going to be like in this space?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, and that’s the thing that I think a lot of a lot of the folks outside of the industry don’t tend to understand. Like, it’s really easy to throw all these targets and say, you want more of this and more of that, but you know, you’re coming to this operation, for example. And sometimes it can take you 18 months to do a capital upgrade of, say, a crushing system that integrates with a conveyor that does X, Y, and Zed. And together after you’ve done the pre feasibility, the feasibility, you’ve done the construction, you’ve done the commissioning, it’s 18 months before, you’re like at steady state operation. So it’s quite slow. I mean, that’s a small capital upgrade that can happen in an industry of that have that’s of that magnitude.

And so none of this is quick, some of those operations have a life of mine, for example, that goes 20 to 30 years. So the fact for them to scrap completely and start from scratch can be very unrealistic. And you don’t also remember, the automation might suit and might not suit the operating philosophy, right. So what I mean by the operating philosophy is, let’s say, for example, you’re in a certain terrain, you’re in a certain environment, where the automation might be quite complex as well. Okay, you might get different road conditions, the weather might be extreme, there may be some variables that may not allow you to automate to that extent, in WA, it’s predominantly desert based, you know, the terrain is a lot more level, there can be different factors that can play into that as well. So it’s not a definitely that’s the right answer.

That’s the way to move forward. And that I guess, there’s also the inherent complexity that you get, you will find your resource, and you will have to deal with what you’re given, that complete deck of cards, including, by the way, including the legislation that comes around. There may be pressure to get the lease and to mine that you got to employ a certain number of people, that might be a requirement. So to go in and to say that you’re just gonna say for example, get in and and employ the fewest number of people because you know, to automate, that might not actually be an option.

So it’s not very straightforward. And where it’s becoming complex now is this is not just about a business plan. This is the business plan plus that ESG environment around that completely that’s actually required to get you to have that license to operate, which is becoming more and more complex, as you can imagine. So it’s not, fortunately or not, it doesn’t matter. That can depend on your opinion, but it’s definitely not just about being productive. It’s bids become very complex as well. Yeah.

MC: Namaan Mian 

One of the second order effects I’m seeing from this change and just what’s happening in the space is the fact that workers are going to have to learn new skills. And you’ve already mentioned the fact that we are kind of reallocating human capital to different functions now. And so can you speak to how the space and the industry is moving forward with re skilling, its workforce and how you specifically are involved in that with your clients?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, very good question. So it’s one thing to induct people to come to the operation or to expect them to have a certain trade etc. Where I think capability building tends to fail a lot of the times is it’s almost like it’s good leadership, right. So a good leader leads collectively, but manages individually, right? That’s really a good leader right? And you know that analogy can kind of be applied to the to the upscaling component. It’s not a medicine that you apply consistently to everyone’s, oh we’ve got to train people, because that’s the compliance thing. And we just got to tick the box and get it over and done with. A lot of the times, the most important piece that’s missing, especially as processes are changing, and industries are changing is defining what good looks like.

I’ve just got from the operation where I’m sitting there with a supervisor and the superintendent, do you know what a good day looks like? Do you know what a good week looks like? Is that actually defined anywhere? Like you’ve spent five years as a superintendent trying to figure it out. If you disappear tomorrow, if you went on a long leave, if you just completely called it quits and wanted to go elsewhere? Where is that captured? And you know, acquisition description doesn’t tell you anything about how your day to day, week to week look like in terms of what’s the gold standard.

So I find myself spending a substantial amount of time defining what a good day looks like, what does a good week look like? I go in, and I look at a superintendents or managers calendar, and it’s booked out 40, 50, 60, sometimes 80% of the week is booked out of meetings, I’m going, When are you ever going to get any work done, and it’s going down? I’m just running, like, if I get a toilet break in between meetings, I’m actually quite lucky, I may need to, like start penciling that in because I’m never gonna get to do that. So you say okay, well, you know, a good manager may have to have, you know, maybe 25% of their calendar booked out in meetings, but maybe another 10 to 15% should be allocated to walking the line and interacting, getting out of the office, seeing people, coaching, developing, role modeling, interacting, and maybe there’s X amount of time in doing all these other things.

So I find myself having to define the routines and rituals for the role. And once I’ve defined what good looks like, then we can sit and assess your current performance and your baseline. Okay, so where are you now from where you need to be? Okay, we’re a long way away. Cool. So what does that gap look like? Let’s put a plan together to close that gap. And what you’ll find is you put that development plan together, which is pretty important, which most organizations do a very bad job in doing. It’s almost like it’s a bureaucratic admin burden, that you just got a deal with, I mean, consultancies is do a much better job because your asset is the people. I mean, in consulting, you’re selling people in industry, you’re selling a product.

So people are I mean, they tell you people come first, but realistically, people kind of come second, it’s not the people that make the money, right? It’s the product. And so more money goes in the equipment and the product, than it goes into the people, whereas in consulting, there is obviously a higher proportion of investment going into the people because that’s your product. So you put these development plans together, and then you have to work, what I found in that magical ratio, where it’s 30% theoretical, and 70% hands on, okay. And again, that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. It’s almost like if I get people to sit on some online courses and take some boxes, I’ve trained the workforce, and no, you haven’t like you’ve ticked the box, you’ve complied.

But very little has actually changed about that person’s day to day, you always got to ask yourself, what are they going to do differently tomorrow? What are they going to do differently next week, and if that online program, online training, whatever it is that you’re going to do, if that’s not going to have an actual dent, in their routines, day in, day out, week, in week out, month, in month out, then what have you actually achieved why. And so you’ll also find disproportionate balance, a lot of the training tends to be tailored towards more technical training, and a lot less around the good management skills that are required for you to run a good operation.

So there’s a lot less training about how do I have courageous conversations? How do I coach and develop my team? How do I have the right servant adaptive leadership skills that will really empower my team to stepping up? How do I delegate? How do I actually delegate? Not because I’m so busy things slip through the cracks, and someone else has to pick it up. But how do you proactively delegate with the intent of building capability and getting people to step up? So they’re the kind of things that you hear of and you may have read the leadership books, you might even have sat on in leadership training, but how do I now actually apply this with the work that I have in my context, it’s never personalized to that level that actually gets that value. And so that’s where I find credibility building with what I do to be incredibly tailored to the role, but then making sure that it has a dent, a very visible dent in how they perform their job day in day out.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Tell you what, that sounds much more tailored than some off the shelf online course. We’ve talked about some of the trends you’re seeing take place in the space right now. I’m going to ask you to put on your Nostradamus hat for a minute. And just kind of look into your crystal ball and tell me what you think is coming in the space here over the next three to five years. Are there trends that you expect to see, by the end of the decade that we’re not necessarily seeing now or maybe only seeing the very beginnings of now?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

I think ESG, right. So environmental, social and governance, I think it’s playing a major role. And CEOs and xCO are still grappling a bit with it, right? So you got to remember, in industry, you have to have someone, you’ve got the strategy hat, and you have the risk hat and the risk hat, a lot of the times will outweigh strategy, because licensed operators critical. So without that there is no strategy, I don’t get to define where I’ll be in five years from now, might not even have a license to operate. And so if you put the risk hat on, what are you looking at, you’re looking at access to capital, with ESG. Right, I will get access to capital, if I’m ticking all the ESG boxes, that’s a big deal, I need that capital, securing new leases, well, if I don’t do that, there is no growth. So I’ve been able to secure new leases, I’ve been able to stay where I am, if I’m there’s still a lot of manufacturing and industry in very prestigious parts of the city, some of them still have river views, and some of them are still up in nice real estate.

So there’s going to be more and more pressure on what’s the cement factory doing in the middle of the city? Like how do we get these people out? You know, there’s increased pressure on housing, etc. Right? And you’ve got the talent attraction, and obviously the license to operate. So you’ve got so much risk coming out from ESG, that it has to be answered. And it has to be dealt with. So the problem that you’ve got now is how do I operationalize ESG do for example, so that I’m in a situation where this is actually part of my portfolio, it’s part of my initiatives, it’s not just this thing, it always used to be a thing on the side, I mean, there was always an environmental manager or safety manager, then they combined them, they call the HSE, health safety environment, then they became HSERT, Health, Safety, Environment, recruitment and training, it’s like the others, like you have your primary producing functions, and then you bucket everything else up into a role for the sake of compliance. But it’s not that anymore. It’s not enough to comply. It has to be incredibly strategic and tactical. So when I look at your business improvement portfolio of projects, I want to be able to start seeing, you know, carbon reduction and ESG initiatives baked in there as well, because that’s now part of it. So this is only just starting to happen now. Because you put yourself in the executives position, right? What am I going to do differently tomorrow? Again, like, what’s the frontline get at? What all this ESG stuff? How’s my operator going? What’s he going to do different than tomorrow?

What’s the supervisor going to do differently? And that’s pretty complicated questions to answer. Yeah, we can have the strategy on paper. But what does it actually mean for us day in day out? The energy transition, as is on right, and everyone has, has subscribed to incredibly aggressive targets by 2030. And, you know, while it’s exciting to get up and bang your chest and throw these numbers out, everyone’s now grappling with how in the world am I going to meet that? Yeah, how am I going to have, especially from the shareholders, or the owners to show credible plans to hit those targets as well? Okay, so the race is on, the numbers have been committed, the day to day hasn’t changed yet. But you can see that in the next three to five years, the game is on because we’ve got what, six, seven years before we can really make a difference now.

So I reckon that’s going to be that’s going to be a major thing that you’re going to see changing. The other major trend, I think, is that you’re gonna start seeing a lot of, we talked about automation, right. But what we haven’t talked about is a lot of the IoT and AI coming and featuring into industry. So let me let me talk about that a little bit here. Real time data for decision making has always been a problem in industry, okay. And it’s becoming a lot more facilitated now with the right hardware, with the good internet connectivity, and the good software and systems that allow you to get that you know, in a position to monitor the speeds, the keys that the operators are at, you’ve got the GPS trackers and logistics and a whole bunch of suite of tools that can help you know, people are over speeding, under speeding, operator performance, how they take their turns, all that kind of stuff.

So you now have a swath of data that you’re now starting to get in heavy industry that you haven’t gotten before. And the trick now, say, from the Consultya perspective is how do you rationalize these 1000 data points that you’re getting in a day? What’s important, what’s not important? How do you cascade that as well? As the organization, what does the CEO need to see? What should the VP look at? What should the manager look at? What should the superintendent look at, what does the supervisor look at, and actually make sure that you’re cascading, the leading and lagging metrics throughout the organization to make sure that everyone’s working at their level and looking at the right things as well.

So that’s where consulting can feature well into all that work. That the other part is the machine and the equipment performance is enhanced, as well, quite substantially, to the extent that you’ve gotten now your predictive capabilities, which is very exciting. There’s a lot about predictive capabilities. Let me give you an example. If we operate the same way we are, we’re going to break down in the next six hours, this pump will fail, this valve will cease, this thing’s going to happen. It’s always been the dream thing, can I actually predict things breaking and getting in proactively, because every hour on some of those things could be worth millions of dollars. And there’s always been a lot of talk about predictive capability.

But there has never been the magical pill. You know, there hasn’t been this industry that said, I have managed to avoid 70% of my failures by installing this fancy gadget. Well, not yet, at least right? So it’s still finding its feet, but it’s become a lot better now. And again, the hardware is available, because you got to imagine a very complex system. So to look at why would the pump fail in a particular instance like that, you could be looking at temperature, at pressure, at vibration levels, the pH of the material going through it, there’s a whole swath of complexity that that goes into it. But AI and machine learning is becoming very adaptive, and it can absorb a lot of information. And I can envision that very soon, we’re going to be in a position where we can improve the performance of the equipment quite substantially by adding machine learning and AI, handling that and handling the predictive aspects of how will we make sure that we continue running without slowing down or breaking down?

MC: Namaan Mian 

I think the predictive nature of those analytics is what’s key there, not just responding to what’s already happened, but mitigating in advance issues that could arise.

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

That’s the billions of dollars that the industry could generate worth of value literally aggregated, it’s humongous. Yeah.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Ahmed, it sounds like you’re bullish on the space, which I am, too. But it’s a notoriously unsexy industry to the general public. And a lot of people don’t understand just the massive amounts of money that’s generated inside of this space every year. It’s not something that people think about a lot when they think about business generally. Can you just talk to me about your kind of general feelings and outlook on the industry here over the next five to 10? years? You already said you’re bullish, can you just expand on that a little bit?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, I think one of the one awesome lead indicator I really rely on quite substantially is the is the participation of women in the industry. Okay, so you’re seeing massive gender diversity taking place in an industry that has historically predominantly been ruled and run and managed by men. Okay, and that’s changing substantially. So the operation that I’ve just come from has a younger female who’s heading the maintenance function, which is a massive remit, right, and you never used to see that stuff before, right? Used to see a lot more females in the sustainability space, in the HR space, a lot of support functions, now you’re starting to see them coming into the line, which is incredibly exciting, right?

So you know, the fitters, the mechanics, the supervisors, the managers, etc. So to me, gender diversity has been such a fresh breath of air into the industry, because that also changes the tone of the industry, right? It’s not the loudest, it’s not, you know, a lot of the testosterone levels can kind of drop quite substantially, which is not a bad thing in operations like that. And I think statistically speaking, females tend to be a lot gentler on the equipment as well. So you get a lot less breakdowns on the equipment and accident damage than you do with them. With all these men trying to compete each other out. So it’s actually quite good. And what had to do in order for that to take place, you had to change the culture again, right.

And so that’s why I keep bringing back culture, you know, people have always been skeptical and scared and worried for, you know, the harassment that used to take place in those industries, the the lack of growth, the lack of opportunity, you know, no role modeling taking place in those industries. And I think gender diversity, as an example, has been has been incredible in terms of we got to change the culture first. Well, you have to do both in parallel, because getting getting the diversity changes culture, so you almost gotta have a plan to change it. And as you make the change, you facilitate it a lot. And remember too now, the rosters have become a lot better now. So flights and accessibility, they’re remote operations, right. And now you’ve got charters that say we’ll fly you out on a Monday morning, bring you back on a Thursday evening, Friday work from home or you take off and you’ve got the weekend.

So that’s, for example, in Queensland, the dominant roster that’s taking place. So you’re not now disconnected from your home for you know, the two weeks on one week off, or the three weeks away, or the oil rigs back in the day, the four weeks away, all of that has changed. All that dynamic allows a lot more participation from a much wider cohort, I am actually quite positive about about industry because because as it becomes less laborsome, which it is becoming. And as it becomes more advanced in terms of you know, the technical capability that’s required, etc, I think it’s going to attract a much more wide and diverse cohort into it. And like I said, whether people like it or not, resources as an example, they’re not going anywhere, because all your phones, all the wind farms and solar panels and all the batteries that we need for the Tesla’s and everyone else, the bottleneck in a lot of those industries in battery manufacturing is the resource.

I mean, it’s the thing that you can’t just throw money at and get more of because it’s scarce. So I actually think that you’ll see a lot of the value chain, I mean, where the bottleneck is in the value chain as well, a lot of the money is made. And I really think that in the next in the next few years, you’re gonna see that more prominence in mining taking place, a lot of these battery manufacturers are even looking at investing in their own mines so that they can secure their supply chain, which is unheard of, you know, no one was ever interested in owning a resource operation previously. So I think all of this is going to continue to change the economics of it, and the viability of the resourcing and general impression of the public of resources, it’s not the place where you get dirty, it’s not the place where you’re gonna get hurt. It’s not the place where you get abused.

And it’s a really bad culture. It’s a place where you can learn, where you can develop, where you can grow. And we can have a major impact on things. I mean, sometimes it’s incredibly rewarding just to see a product coming in at the other end of all that hard work that whole bunch of people have put into.

MC: Namaan Mian 

I think that’s a conversation for another day. But that vertical integration of the supply chain, right, across companies like Tesla and others that require these intensive resources, I think is going to be a big competitive advantage for them moving forward. And you know, as an investor, as someone who’s evaluating these companies and trying to evaluate them, I think that’s something that I’m looking at, is the future potential returns of some of these players who require these natural resources as, what’s the security and the sanctity of your supply chain, and how vertically integrated are you?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Correct. And that supply chain now needs to be ESG as well, right, which is now making it complicated, because it’s not just about my little operation, I don’t care how I got my supply, so long as I’ve got it. They’re the old days. Now, it needs to be traceable and transparent, which adds massive complexity, especially if you’re operating—if you’re in the Congo, if you’re in certain parts of the world, in Africa and other places where, you know, industry is not very tightly regulated, that’s going to add even more complexity and more pressure on making sure, so who wins at the end, I with the resources, maybe unregulated, because you need me or I who needs you, you know, it’s gonna become—we haven’t seen that play out yet. You know, so far, it hasn’t been an issue. But it’s going to become a big issue very quickly, especially as you start gravitating towards economies that are unregulated, somewhat underdeveloped, who will have a lot of those resources, where it’d be very interesting to see how that starts to play out as well.

MC: Namaan Mian 

As we move into the electrification of everything, are there certain countries or regions of the world that you expect to become hotspots for industrials that aren’t necessarily hotspots today?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, that’s a good question. So if you look, for example, and it’s actually quite interesting, even a lot of the oil rich producing countries of, say, the Middle East, they’re also doing pretty big and betting on renewables as well, right. Like I’ve got sand, I’ve got space, and I’ve got the capital, a lot of it is an extensive amount of capital that you need to sink in to make these industries viable. So it’s got a massive barrier to entry. And I think it will be profitable for a lot of players down the track as well. Does that mean that does that mean that the primary resource is not going to be anywhere near high in demand? I think not yet, you know, planes are not gonna go solar anytime soon.

Cars, by the way, are nowhere near the majority of the pollutants as much as people like to think, because that’s what they interact with daily, but it’s a lot of those very different industries that you wouldn’t really think of, and that’s where a lot of that happens. And that’s still pretty complex and we’re nowhere near that yet. So that’s going to take some time. Now, is it going to create winners and losers? I think absolutely. Like I said, I think some certain, like mining is one of those perfect examples of I’m not going anywhere, I’m at the heart of this.

And I’m in fact becoming the bottleneck, which means that I’m going to be making the killing here. I think where it might start to hurt now is, think of, you used to be the contractor set up in a remote part of the country where you were serving a lot of, say, mining companies or industrial companies, you may not need anywhere near as many mechanics down the track, as you may need auto electricians because a lot of the equipment is now automated. So a lot of some of those legacy trades, they won’t be a legacy, but they’re going to be a lot less in demand. As those transitions happen, I’m going to need more people, I’m going to need more electrical people, more electrical technicians, people with different skill sets, etc.

And that’s going to hurt people upfront who are again, you know, they’re up and running. And they’ve invested into the workshop, into the equipment, into the spare parts, into the inventory, into the supply chain that makes them who they are today. If they don’t start making very quick transitions to what the future demand is going to require, the future skill sets, etc, they’re going to be in a bit of trouble as well. Think of a lot of the electrical cars that are going on now, you buy a Tesla today and the only cost you’re gonna have is changing your tire and power, and then maybe a battery every eight to 10 years. So the mechanic who used to service your truck all the time and all the dramas that used to come with it, etc. They need to start changing their business model very quickly. So there’s gonna be winners and losers, right, as any major transition takes place. And I think those that adapt themselves to the new state as early as possible, but it is very difficult. Because you can’t sit there as the guy loads the workshop and think, Okay, on the 20th of August 2025, is what I’m going to change. Like it’s never that simple. So it’s pretty complicated.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Ahmed, as we end today’s conversation, I want to get a little bit more tactical. So we’ve been talking about trends at play in the space broadly. But you’ve got a lot of hands on experience with organizational transformation initiatives. They can be complex. And so I’m just curious, can you share with us a couple of common challenges that various companies you’ve worked with have encountered, and how you help those companies overcome those obstacles and some learnings that the rest of us can take away from that?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

Yeah, that’s a really good question. Um, as silly as some of it might be, let me start with the most obvious ones. Okay. You need to start articulating the why. Why are we doing this? So, again, the consultants get parachuted into the organization, everyone freaks out, my jobs at risk, etc. Start with the why. I mean, that’s what I always start with, we need to simplify the operations, we’ve got to make it more efficient. We’ve got some threats coming up, and we need to be more agile. So we’ve got to really communicate the need for the transformation and integrate that with the existing company comms, because in transformations, no news is very bad news. Okay, so open up the comms, go on steroids, until people are pretty comfortable that they understand what’s happening.

So start with the why. Because as obvious as it sounds, a lot of consulting shops do not do that, then the next most important thing after you’ve done that is that you’ve got the sponsorship of the leaders, okay? Because what excites my boss will fascinate me. And so those senior leaders must role model the change that you’re going to make. And so all those department leaders and the managers, they have to communicate those products to their teams, they got to make it personal, I don’t like setting up a separate central PML function that just demands updates from the teams, I like to I like to work through the line.

And because it’s the manager and the superintendents and the supervisors departments that are changing, they know each other, they understand one another. So it has to come from the line. So that change has to be line lead. And that’s probably the third thing, you have to ensure that the solutions are pragmatic and owned by those relevant individuals, you have to work with each department leader to make sure that the transformation, the communication, is suitable for them. Some might communicate via posters, others or via email. Someone, for example, in a mining operation, when where their team are predominantly in a truck, or in a piece of gear somewhere, sending them emails is not the way to communicate to them, right.

So you got to tailor the comms to your audience and make sure that it works for them. Another one is, and you might remember in the last podcast, we talked about co-designing or co-creating which means I might know the answer, but that’s not enough. If I’m just shoving answers down their throats, which a lot fo consulting shops tend to do, here’s the framework, here’s what we’re gonna do, bang, go make it happen. And I’ll set up some tracking and I’ll whack you every week, if you’re behind, and I’ll measure you on reds and greens and all the rest of it, and then I’ll report up, you know, all the non-compliance, it’s like, What a miserable gig, okay, so let’s not do that, let’s sit together and co-create all the solutions, it’s okay to have the answer in your back pocket. But what you’ll be surprised about, you know, 7-8 times out of 10, is you also learn a lot from those line people and you tailor your solutions even more.

So you actually get a better answer when you co create, so you engage the leaders, you engage the end users in that design. And what you’ll find is implementation is then a breeze. You know, one very hard thing again, and we mentioned earlier about those PML setups, running hundreds of initiatives, resulting in a chronic level of consulting, fatigue, focus on the priorities. And I know it sounds really easy, but you know, you’ll walk away, having spent a couple of mil on a top down report, 600 slides, and you’ve got no idea where to start. So avoid that headless chicken syndrome, where you’re just wandering around, panicking, trying to get everything done, and get nothing done. And clearly align those priorities from the leadership down to the shop floor.

And another major thing here is to make sure that you’re not adding extra admin, if the transformation is now introducing a tracker, and another tracker, and then a third tracker to track those two trackers, and all this complexity that has to take place. The reality is, as soon as the consultant goes away, it all falls away, it’s almost like, finally they’re gone, I can just get rid of all of this. And I’ve seen it so many times, right. So go back to basics, don’t add new meetings, don’t add new track, like at whatever things you introduce has to be able to make people’s jobs better, lighter, easier, quicker, more sustainable, right. And if it’s not doing that, then really challenge that stuff that you’re injecting and introducing them to the organization, get feedback, etc.

Also, there’s no harm in deploying in stages. So you know, trying to fix a little bit everywhere, will really dilute your focus and the resources and sometimes getting those small, quick wins can boost the morale white substantially. So you know, start with those priorities, start with the precious few, get them done, show the organization that change is possible, results are attainable, because they’re gonna get excited. And the last thing is, you know, sustainable by building that capability, right. So building that capability will make sure that you don’t end up with those off baked initiatives and archives document. And so yeah, make, just like we’ve said before, you know, lead collectively, manage individually, develop capability at the individual level, and you’ll see some results thriving throughout the organization.

MC: Namaan Mian 

I love it.

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

I’ve really tried to compress it all. But yeah, there’s some of those, like, key learnings I guess.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Ahmed, as you know, it’s tradition here at Strategy Simplified to end our conversations with a couple of personal questions, just to get to know you a little bit better. And so my first one for you is just: is there a piece of media that you’ve recently consumed that you’d like to share with the world, an article that you read, a show that you’ve watched, something that you’ve listened to? Maybe it’s another podcast, anything that you’d recommend our listeners check out?

Consultya: Ahmed Elkomy 

I’ve been interested in the effect of influence and persuasion, and how you can articulate your messaging and refining it further. One of the people that I find incredibly interesting is Jordan Peterson, I find that the way he articulates his arguments and debates is really a learning for me, right? So you know, a trained psychologist who’s who’s been out there on the road, who’s written those books. I mean, I read the books, they were pretty good, and then I attended one of his visits here in Brisbane a few months ago.

And I was just really fascinated by the ability for someone to just be very crisp and articulate the way that they talk. And I mean, there’s no better skill in the world than to write well, and to speak well, irrespective of what background you have, you’re not going to make a change, you’re not going to build relationships, you’re not going to influence anyone, if you struggle to communicate. So I’ve been trying to look out for people that can kind of role model that for me, so I can learn a few bits about how they do it. And yeah, I’ve found that individuals have been a bit of a guide for me, and I’m trying to just make sure that I get some of those learnings.

MC: Namaan Mian 

Amazing. Well, Ahmed Elkomy is the Managing Director of Consultya. He joins us from his office in Brisbane, Australia. Ahmed, thanks so much for joining us today.

Filed Under: Consulting Firms, Operations Management, Strategy Simplified