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The connected workforce: it’s all about people, not technology

The connected workforce: it’s all about people, not technology

Collaboration has long been the lifeblood of productivity and creativity in the workplace. Yet for many manufacturing executives, connecting machines to the plant, and, in turn, the plant to the back office remains a top priority. Much less of a concern appears to be the prospect of a seamlessly connected workforce.

The rise of automation and connected systems also signals workforce transformation. And this is where the manufacturer’s dilemma begins. Not only do manufacturers have to lure tech-savvy talent, they must also reskill or upskill existing resources to harness the power of the new disruptive manufacturing technologies.

A highly technologically advanced environment means more employee contributions revolving around technology, digital, and intelligence roles. Isolated, optimised units need to work together as completely integrated automated units with optimised production flows. These developments change the traditional production relationships.

Technological transformation is meaningless without a culture that enables risk-taking and change. It’s essential to create a consistency of core values and a shared mission among diverse employees who feel empowered to work across functions and to challenge the status quo.

To create this agile new workplace, manufacturing leaders need to do the following:

1. Invest in learning and development

No matter which approach an organisation takes to talent agility, there needs to be some investment in upskilling in order to keep skills up to date and relevant. Research shows that shop floor workers sometimes lack the mathematical, engineering, and programming skills necessary to operate the factories of the future. Some countries, such as Germany and Japan, have addressed this issue by adopting apprenticeship systems that educate workers on the job.

The connected workforce: it’s all about people, not technologyIn practice, this might include putting authoring and publishing tools on the factory floor to help workers document unexpected issues, identify and capture solutions, and make appropriate improvement recommendations that create an organic continuous learning environment. Moreover, role-based settings can be effectively utilised to ensure that the final content is only shared once it has passed through the required approvals processes.

In-house training, as well as external partnerships, will also help to prepare the existing employee base to programme, operate and maintain the robots and digitally enabled machinery they will be standing alongside at the production lines.

2. Start attracting talent now

Industrial manufacturers must compete fiercely with tech companies and start-ups to attract more millennial talent. These workers tend to prefer flexible work environments that are light on hierarchy and encourage creativity and risk-taking. It would include people with expertise in technology areas such as product management, software development, data science, analytics, and cybersecurity.

Creative solutions to fill the talent gap include hiring people who are not necessarily prepared for a career in industrial equipment, but are technologically savvy and potentially a great asset for a manufacturer in transition. To help enable a connected workforce, allow these new hires to work with experienced industry personnel to build a healthy mix of talent in each team.

3. Remake the workplace culture

The biggest challenge for industrial manufacturing companies in the process of digital transformation isn’t the technology — it’s the people. It’s critical not to underestimate the importance of this part of the equation as leaders implement a new era of digital industry.

Employees act differently when given the right information. It is no different than a traffic signal. When you reach a red light, you stop, when you see a green light, you go. Empowered with the right information and data, connected workers will make smart decisions almost 100% of the time. And it means their attention is redirected toward more valuable activities like continuous improvement.

Success, therefore, will depend largely on the digital IQ of leaders and their teams. Leaders must deploy and enhance change management capabilities to help ease their people through this radical disruption, working closely with teams across all functions before, during, and after implementation.

About TRACC
The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.
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