The Connected Worker Guide

Ken Fisher

In today’s rapidly advancing world, technology has fundamentally transformed the way we live, work and interact with each other. The internet and smart devices now ensure we are connected at all times, from ordering food and keeping up with family on social media to watching movies and reading news articles. This level of connectedness even extends to the manufacturing industry, and the potential for digital technologies to revolutionize the industry into a modern connected workforce is enormous.

As we move toward a more connected world, the importance of connected workers cannot be overstated. Connected workers are those equipped with the latest digital tools and technologies, enabling them to work smarter, more efficiently and with greater accuracy than ever before. In manufacturing, connected workers have the potential to increase productivity, improve quality and enhance safety.

The manufacturing industry is quickly evolving, and new digital technologies are making it possible to help manufacturing excel and expand upon the era of connectivity. The manufacturing industry is quickly evolving, and new digital technologies are paving the way for the rise of the connected worker, making it possible to help manufacturing excel and expand upon the era of connectivity. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies are transforming the way manufacturers operate. These innovations are integral to the connected worker concept, enabling them to collect and analyze data in real-time, optimize production processes, and improve product quality through enhanced decision-making and efficiency.

In this guide, we’ll explore the benefits of connected workers in manufacturing, the technologies driving the connected worker revolution and how manufacturers can embrace this era to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

What is a Connected Worker?

A connected worker is an employee who is integrated into their environment by connective technologies. These technologies enable workers to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively, and they can access and share information, communicate with others and perform tasks remotely. But being a connected worker is much more than simply using technology to stay connected and collaborate with others.

Connected workers can be found in all areas of a business, from the factory floor to the executive suite. In manufacturing, for example, connected workers can use digital tools to access real-time data, monitor equipment performance and work with other team members to optimize production processes. In doing so, they can increase productivity, improve quality and enhance safety, all while driving innovation and competitiveness for their organization.

In short, connected workers are essential to the success of modern businesses. They possess a unique set of skills and attributes that enable them to work more efficiently, collaborate more effectively and make better decisions.

Benefits of a Connected Workforce

A connected workforce can offer a wide range of advantages to organizations across various industries. These benefits stem from the use of connective technologies that enable workers to perform their tasks more efficiently and collaboratively. Here are some of the many benefits of a connected workforce:

  1. Increased productivity — The use of digital tools to automate routine tasks and access real-time data enables employees to work smarter, not harder. Increased productivity can lead to high output levels and improved profitability for the organization.
  2. Improved communication and collaboration — Collaborate more effectively, share information more easily and work together toward a common goal. Streamlined communication means better decision-making, reduced errors and increased innovation.
  3. Faster troubleshooting — Notify supervisors or call for support within critical windows to ensure that issues are resolved in a timely manner.
  4. Enhanced safety and security — Connected workers typically make fewer mistakes, and connective technologies can help identify potential safety hazards and reduce the risk of accidents.
  5. Improved visibility into frontline work — Provide real-time awareness of frontline work, enabling managers to monitor performance, identify issues and make informed decisions.
  6. Central knowledge bases accessible when needed — Access a centralized hub of information when needed, providing them with the information required to perform their jobs more easily.
  7. End-to-end process data — Capture end-to-end process data, enabling managers to identify inefficiencies and areas of improvement.
  8. Simplified asset management — Track equipment, manage maintenance schedules and optimize asset utilization.
  9. More attractive to a younger workforce — Younger workers are generally more accustomed to using technology in their personal lives. Organizations can better attract and retain top talent by offering them a modern, connected workplace.

By embracing connective technologies and empowering their connected workers, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

How to Increase Engagement, Reduce Turnover, and Boost Productivity with Connected Workers

To fully leverage the benefits of a connected workforce, companies must take measures to increase employee engagement. By promoting a culture of collaboration and providing support for new technologies, companies can help workers to feel more connected to their jobs, which can reduce turnover and increase productivity. Here are a few strategies for increasing worker engagement:

  • Provide training and support for new technologies — It’s essential that companies invest in the necessary training and support for workers to become proficient in using new technologies. By doing so, workers are able to make better use of the tools at their disposal, which can increase efficiency and job satisfaction.
  • Encourage open communication and feedbackCompanies should create a culture of open communication, where workers are encouraged to share feedback and ideas. This helps foster a sense of connection between workers and the organization and can lead to increased workplace motivation.
  • Foster a sense of community and teamwork — Connected workers are more likely to be engaged when they feel like they are part of a community or team. Companies can create a sense of community by providing opportunities for team-building and social events, which can lead to increased camaraderie and collaboration.
  • Offer opportunities for career growth — Connected workers are more likely to stay engaged when they feel there are opportunities for career advancement and development within the company. Organizations can foster employee loyalty by providing clear career paths, training and development programs, and mentoring opportunities that help employees develop the skills they need to succeed.

Connected Worker Technologies

A connected workforce relies on technology to stay engaged and productive. Here are some of the top forms of technology used by today’s connected workforce:

  • IoT platforms — The Internet of Things provides a network of devices and sensors that can communicate with each other, enabling real-time data sharing and analytics. IoT platforms help connected workers to monitor and control equipment, track performance metrics and optimize workflows.
  • InterfacesUser-friendly interfaces make it easy for connected workers to access and interact with digital tools and systems. Interfaces can be customized to meet the unique needs of different job functions and roles.
  • Mobile devices and appsSmartphones and tablets enable a connected workforce to access data, collaborate with colleagues and, in some units, perform tasks remotely. Mobile apps can provide real-time updates, notifications and alerts that keep connected workers informed and on-task.
  • Offer opportunities for career growth — Connected workers are more likely to stay engaged when they feel there are opportunities for career advancement and development within the company. Organizations can foster employee loyalty by providing clear career paths, training and development programs, and mentoring opportunities that help employees develop the skills they need to succeed.
  • Wearables and sensors — These tools can collect and transmit data on a worker’s location, movements, vital signs and environmental conditions. This data can be used to improve safety, optimize workflows and enhance productivity.
  • Virtual and augmented reality — Connected workers can use virtual and augmented reality technologies to visualize and interact with digital models of physical environments, equipment and processes. This can help them gain a better understanding of complex systems, train for new tasks and troubleshoot issues more efficiently.
  • Cloud-based collaboration tools — Cloud-based platforms provide a secure and scalable environment for connected workers to share data, collaborate on projects and communicate with colleagues across departments and locations. These tools can improve efficiency, reduce errors and enhance the quality of work.

Connected Worker Use Units

Connected workers are a vital component of a modern manufacturing workforce. Here are a few scenarios where connected workers can make an impact:

  • Process visibility — Connected workers can leverage data in real-time, giving them the visibility needed to make informed decisions about the process as it unfolds. This real-time data access enables them to quickly respond to process variations and implement corrective actions, leading to improved quality and increased productivity.
  • Inline quality — Connected workers can monitor and adjust quality parameters in real-time, leading to fewer defects and less waste. This enables manufacturers to produce high-quality products at a lower cost.
  • Dynamic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) — With access to real-time data, connected workers can receive updated SOPs as they work, ensuring that they are always following the most up-to-date procedures. This improves consistency and reduces errors.
  • Machine monitoringConnected workers can monitor machines in real-time, identifying potential problems before they occur. This proactive approach to machine maintenance helps reduce downtime, increase efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Field service and machine maintenanceConnected workers can use wearables and sensors to monitor equipment remotely and perform maintenance tasks as needed. This reduces the need for on-site maintenance visits and can help improve equipment uptime and reduce maintenance costs.

How to Choose a Connected Worker Platform

When selecting a connected workforce platform, it’s important to consider your organization’s unique needs and goals. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Start by determining what you want to accomplish with the connected worker platform. What specific problems are you trying to solve or goals are you trying to meet?
  • Research and compare different platforms. Look for ones that have a track record of success in your industry or that offer the features you need.
  • Consider ease of use and integration with your existing systems. The platform should be intuitive and easy for your team to adopt, and it should integrate smoothly with any systems you’re already using.
  • Look for a platform with reliable customer support. You want to work with a provider who will be there to support you and help you get the most out of the platform.

When evaluating different connected worker platforms, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who do you need to connect?
  • What tasks or activities will they be doing?
  • What information do they need to do their job effectively?
  • What other systems or tools do they need to interact with?
  • How do their actions impact the work being done by others?
  • What types of errors are they likely to make, and how can the platform help prevent those mistakes?
  • What data will be most valuable in improving productivity and efficiency?
  • Is the technology engaging? How does it keep employees motivated? Are there any gamified or fun options to help make the work more enjoyable?

By considering these factors and asking the right questions, you can choose a connected worker platform that meets your needs and helps your organization achieve its goals.

Unlock Your Company’s Potential with a Connected Workforce

The benefits of a connected workforce are clear. By bringing cross-functional teams together with a common goal of providing them with the tools and resources they need, organizations can see significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and overall performance. Furthermore, by investing in a connected workforce, organizations can foster a sense of trust and empower their frontline employees to take ownership of their work and solve problems on their own, ultimately leading to greater success and a more efficient workplace.
Don’t wait any longer to start transforming your workforce with connected worker technologies — download our eBook, The New Connected Workforce, and take the first step toward a more productive manufacturing operation.

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Ken Fisher Ken Fisher, SVP Product, Marketing, and Solutions at Redzone, is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience in manufacturing operations and lean transformation. He has a deep understanding of industry challenges and is dedicated to recognizing the value of frontline workers in manufacturers' success. Ken leads a team at Redzone that enhances current products, develops new solutions, and works with factories to design digital production systems that achieve operational goals. He also served as a Continuous Improvement Coach, implementing Redzone in food processing facilities. Notably, Ken spoke at the Food Safety Summit in 2019. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida and an M.B.A. from the University of Florida.

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