The most valuable asset on your plant floor isn’t machinery or products. It’s not data, technology, or patents. It’s the operators who run the plant floor—your workforce. And any hope for increased productivity, quality, or innovation starts with them.
Yet the plant floor is often focused on just keeping up with day-to-day demands. The result? Your workforce—the most vital driver of today’s efficiency and tomorrow’s growth—is under-optimised, under-utilised, and under-valued.
According to the Harvard Business Review, workforce skill “is worth far more to many companies than their tangible assets. Unlike financial and physical ones, intangible assets are hard for competitors to imitate, which makes them a powerful source of sustainable competitive advantage.” (Measuring the Strategic Readiness of Intangible Assets, 2004). This is especially true in the manufacturing sector. According to a survey by Manpower Manufacturing, 90% of manufacturing managers view their workforce as problem-solvers who are key to process improvement and customer satisfaction.
90%of manufacturing managers agreed that “We view our manufacturing workforce as full partners in solving problems, improving processes, and satisfying our customers."
- Manpower Manufacturing Workforce Survey, 2012
So how can you make the most of such an important asset? The key is to find tangible ways to unlock your workforce’s intangible potential. Here are three proven strategies that will enable your people do their jobs more efficiently and with greater productivity—while increasing safety, compliance, and product quality.
Increase instruction clarity and streamline communication by establishing a digital thread between Engineering and Manufacturing.
Clear and accurate work instructions—with no latency between Engineering and Manufacturing—are the best way to reduce scrap and efficiently produce high-quality goods.
Traditional work instructions often result in lost productivity and extra scrap. Because non-digital work instructions (such as paper manuals or PDFs) are essentially out-of-date as soon as they’re printed, operators never truly have the most accurate information from Engineering.
Operators waste time struggling to find relevant, up-to-date information. If instructions are missing or unclear, they wait even longer for guidance—or create inconsistent workarounds that deviate from SOP and lead to product variation.
Implement an IoT-based digital thread between Engineering and Manufacturing to ensure that work instructions are always accurate, clear, and created with full operational context. Integration of real-time data from Engineering prevents latency in instruction hand-off and enables in-depth context and clarity. Engineering, Manufacturing, IT, and OT always have clear communication through a digital instruction thread that provides the information they need, right when they need it
With IoT-based digital threads through their work instructions, operators always have an integrated view of:
Reduce silos and training gaps by creating a unified view across your workforce.
74% of survey respondents reported that workforce shortages or skills deficiencies are having a significant impact on their ability to expand operations or improve productivity. When the respondents were asked to look ahead three to five years, they ranked access to a highly skilled, flexible workforce as the single most important factor in their effectiveness—placing it 20 percentage points higher than more tangible factors, such as new product innovation and increased market share.
- Source: 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Skills Gap and Future of Work Study
Today’s manufacturing workforce includes a diverse range of experience, skills, and training. One unified view of instructions creates one unified process, even across your varied workforce.
The fast pace of manufacturing often results in little time to onboard or upskill your workforce. But a typical plant floor includes many disparate systems—each of which requires specialised training to get operators work-ready.
The result is less workforce flexibility and less innovation, as it takes overhead and time to cross-train operators on different tools and to test-drive a new process that might introduce unfamiliar equipment interactions.
IoT-based digital work instructions integrate all your various systems and operational roles in one unified view. Operators have the information they need to learn different tasks, adapt to new processes, and support product innovation. They don’t have to learn multiple systems to find siloed data or details— all that information is captured in one place, contextual and clear.
Help your workforce focus on the tasks at hand by bringing together all the information they need at every stage of the process.
The most valuable assets of a 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.
- “Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge.” California Management Review, 1999.
The best work instructions break each step into basic elements—and also incorporate real-time process and product data for historical capture and future knowledge.
Unfortunatelly, pencil and paper are still some of an operators’ most-relied upon assets for staying on top of the real-time happenings on the plant floor. Therefore, a lot of time and brain power is spent manually tracking vital data inputs, and human error is inevitable as operators are pulled in many different directions.
IoT-based digital work instructions set the foundation for a well-informed workforce by unifying production processes. Smart tools are automatically connected and set to spec, and that same data is captured for traceability and genealogy. Operators input product data directly into the digital work instructions, ensuring transcription correctness and accurate historical part data. Machine health, history, and status can be monitored and updated throughout the day, so operators can plan (and prevent) downtime. All-in-all, every important piece of process, product, people, and performance data is captured, all in one place. Efficiency increases—along with compliance, safety, and data accuracy—as operators can focus on the task at hand.
Want to learn more about how IoT-based digital work instructions can help your plant floor?
Review Key Survey Findings About Multi-Plant Benchmarking
Manufacturers have a lot to gain from implementing plant benchmarking initiatives—including enhanced operational performance, greater data visibility, more data-based best practices enablement, and more.
In The Future of Multi-Plant Benchmarking for Improved Performance research paper, IndustryWeek breaks down key findings from their 2018–2019 survey of manufacturers. The report explores: