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A Heavy Lift for a Heavy Equipment Manufacturer: Managing a Workforce Across 5 Continents

Dec. 6, 2021
How Komatsu tackled a tall task with cloud technology.

Managing a global workforce is complex. Beyond creating positive and culturally appropriate work experiences for a workforce across multiple regions, companies need to stay on top of labor laws and pay rules, compliance regulations, attendance policies, leave exceptions, and country-specific factors like time zones, languages, and more.

Komatsu, a multinational manufacturer of heavy equipment for mining, construction, and military, was operating five separate on-premise instances of the same workforce management solution, on five different continents. This was a heavy lift for an organization employing nearly 6,000 salaried and hourly employees across 57 locations in seven countries — all of which have different pay and labor rules. Support, maintaining and upgrade multiple instances of this solution was a duplication effort for IT, required more infrastructure and posed a higher risk of data loss. Scaling for growth meant adding more sites and more instances, which came with the hassle of additional data centers, servers, databases, upgrades, and updates.

Contemplating Consolidation: Determining The Key Elements Of Success

In 2017, the company decided to migrate to a single global system in the cloud. Komatsu explored the benefits of eliminating the company’s on-premise technical footprint and consolidating its instances in the cloud. A centralized enterprise database would provide a single source of truth to easily find and analyze time and pay data (e.g., the number of sick days employees used over the past year).

Komatsu also saw benefits in standardizing certain global processes, like time tracking and payroll, which would save time by allowing access to one comprehensive file rather than requiring users to search for different records stored in multiple locations.

Perhaps most importantly, the company saw an opportunity to improve workforce satisfaction, engagement and productivity. Moving to a cloud environment and creating a standardized user interface would offer a more consistent experience globally, while allowing for automatic system updates across all sites at once.

Creating A More Efficient Work Environment For Employees Around The World

The company began its journey to a new system by creating a team of internal solution experts and stakeholders who engaged executive leadership to support the initiative.

Leaders chose a system from UKG for its ease of use in managing license transfers, robust backup plan for disaster recovery, abundance of cloud storage space and flexibility and improved archiving strategy and processes.  

The team had to identify which original configuration each employee belonged to and carried out a significant renaming effort to ensure there were no duplicate employees or badge numbers. They started with employees based in North America and used this region as a baseline to ensure they used consistent naming conventions. Next came employees based in the United Kingdom, followed by those in Europe, South Africa, China and Australia.

Komatsu followed an aggressive 11-month timeline to get all sites consolidated. While testing and getting ready for go-live in one region, the team was simultaneously supporting the next group of employees as they prepared for go-live in their region. Each migration to the new instance took roughly four months, and subject matter experts were engaged at each of the sites in each country to help ensure correct configurations were deployed based on local language(s) and labor laws.

Developing a change management strategy was critical to guide employees through the process and address their questions. In doing so, Komatsu found that employees generally felt positive about the transition.

Today, Komatsu is better equipped to handle its global workforce management needs. Its IT department has more time and energy to put towards strategic and productive initiatives. And when scaling for growth, adding a new site no longer equates to adding another instance and duplicative work. The company has greater visibility over workforce management and pay, driving more informed business decisions and a more engaging employee experience.

Jie Su is the solution delivery leader for finance and HCM at Komatsu. She leads the company’s UKG solution and is responsible for getting the most value from it.

Kylene Zenk is director of the manufacturing practice at UKG.

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