There is no denying that we are well into the swing of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Early adopters of digitalization are already seeing measurable benefits, such as increased energy efficiency and quicker troubleshooting – which means less downtime of their assets and a better return on capital expenditure. However, there is still concern that digitalization will not be accepted or adopted by the workforce, or that knowledge will be lost.
How can we manage this and make sure that the benefits of digitalization can be adopted at scale and diffused throughout the industrial ecosystem?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) says: empower your people.
People are augmented with – and empowered by – technology
Equipping operators with mobile devices, data analytics, augmented reality and transparent connectivity means decision making will be smarter and faster – and manufacturers will be able to deliver on increasingly strident market demands for more flexible and sustainable manufacturing. For example, collecting and analysing data can enable new and different behaviours and operating procedures – such as using process data to extend the life of connected industrial assets, or simulation and scenario-planning tools that can suggest more sustainable solutions in areas like raw material selection, choosing the most optimal energy supplier, or recommending the most suitable delivery method.
In smart factories you will not only see intelligent new technologies that can even be self-learning, but you will see these new technologies working seamlessly with highly skilled operators to increase productivity and operate the plant in real time. The human element in gathering, comparing and analysing data is essential.
Digital transformation is about connectivity and collaboration
Connectivity between products, machines and people, and collaboration between people across the complete industrial value chain, are the enabling factors of digitalization. If there is a risk to the success of the widespread adoption of digitalization it is how companies manage the journey – how they train their people to step up and embrace the changes that smart manufacturing brings to their day-to-day work.
A culture that drives and manages innovation and the proper implementation of new technologies is important – but it’s not enough. People need to experience the benefits first-hand. We have found through our own digitalization journey that pilot phases, peer-to-peer learning and cross-site collaboration have been most effective in ensuring the rapid adoption and appreciation of new technologies by our workforce. Our people were looking for ease-of-use and learning opportunities, and have benefited greatly from a better ability to transfer knowledge among themselves on what fixes or adjustments have been made to processes, and so have been able to be more predictive of downtime risks.