August 22, 2023
Multiple trends are colliding to drive manufacturing leaders’ interest in deploying connected workforce applications. Labor shortages and retiring workers are harming companies’ ability to digitize processes.
A recent report from Gartner® analysts Simon Jacobson and Dana Stiffler, Innovation Insight: Connected Factory Workers Drive Smart Manufacturing, in our opinion, points a way forward through this maze. The analysts recommend that manufacturing operations leaders must “go beyond basic training and deliver upskilling initiatives that stimulate employees’ digital ambition while augmenting core problem-solving skills.”
“Pioneering organizations are offering a new “human deal” to frontline workers by defying convention to build a better experience for frontline employees,” say the analysts. Jacobson and Stiffler state that “Failing to combine technology adoption with capability building creates technology acquisition risks.”
The Gartner analysts state, “It’s no good upgrading conventional lean and production systems without focusing on the people pillar.”
“The technologies enabling the connected factory worker are designed around daily work and the employee experience” and provide “workers with tools to digitize core interactions and improve the daily execution of methods and procedures,” Jacobson and Stiffler continue. “This opens up new feedback loops for continuous improvement (CI) and improves cross-site collaboration.”
Connected workforce applications provide a way for companies to continually engage workers, drive innovation, and share knowledge. Manufacturers can avoid digital transformation failures by involving workers from the ground up: deploying solutions, boosting production on a focus line, and sharing knowledge with teammates. With connected workforce applications, workers solve real issues, such as equipment challenges that harm throughput or quality problems that result in product returns. By doing so, they create business value and win the day for themselves and their teammates.
A recent QAD Redzone corporate benchmark report of 1,000 manufacturers found that they achieved significant business results in as little as 90 days by deploying worker-focused technology. When manufacturing firms paired a connected workforce solution with targeted coaching, they were able to achieve an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) uplift of 14 points on average, as well as a productivity gain of 29%.
Another report, the 2022 Gartner Frontline Workers Experience Reinvented Survey, found that creating a culture of CI helps develop a resilient manufacturing workforce and improve business and operational performance. Those organizations where frontline workers were equipped with tools and resources to succeed and felt cared for were 2.7X more likely to outperform against business goals.
As transformation pressures increase, manufacturers can tap into the collective insight of their workforce to solve problems, digitize processes, and drive more business value. Engaged workers are also more likely to stay at their employers, building skills and developing long-lasting careers.