From a manual to a system-guided process: implementing change in a fast-moving consumer goods company in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
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The purpose of this study was to develop a change management framework in transitioning from a manual process to an automated system-guided process using digital technology for managing short-dated inventory in the logistics operations environment. The manual process at the logistics study site entailed the operational staff physically going through all bin locations of inventory in the warehouse and manually checking the shelf-life expiry date (SLED) of the inventory, and as recorded on manually created documents. A qualitative methodology was applied due to the exploratory nature of this study. The data collection strategies utilised were semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The participants were from a purposefully selected sample which constituted all levels of the operational staff. They were managers; despatch/receiving co-ordinators; inventory counters; clerical stock controllers; administration clerks; forklift drivers; reach truck drivers; and supervisors. There were fourteen interviews and three focus group interviews. The data were analysed thematically and subsequently the change management framework was imposed, which was the theoretical underpinning in support of the transition from a manual process to an automated system-guided process utilising digital technology. An understanding of the theoretical underpinning of the change management framework and the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) emerged as the discussion developed. The application of the UTAUT model indicated user intention to embrace new technology. The thematic concepts that emerged from the data generated were technology exposure and awareness; skills and competencies; challenges and recommendations; and system implementation: manual-to-automated. The contributions and findings of this study included that the integration of technology and the workforce at the study site did not result in job losses, which is positive for the people, the company, and the economy. Policy contributes to, and informs, job security, skills development, ways of working, and technology adoption frameworks. The contribution from the leadership and management team, with their practical approach, supported the workforce in transitioning from a manual to an automated system-guided approach. One of the inherent fears that the participants cited was that of job losses. Effective communication; training; and management support and presence, contributed to the change in behaviour required to adopt the technology and embrace change. The study ultimately proposed the Logistics Change Management Model, which was adapted to the South African context and is applicable when transitioning from a manual to a system-guided process at the focal company. It is recommended that further studies are conducted to strengthen the theoretical framework.