Manufacturers Are Pouring Money Into Industrial IoT. Are Employees Ready For The Impact?
Adoption of Industry 4.0 can result in a profitable ROI by improving productivity and decreasing waste. The following article by Forbes reflects how, in order to achieve highest efficiency, the skills and training of current workforce and overall organization culture need to shift for manufacturers.
Digital transformation has made its way into the manufacturing industry, but are employees truly prepared for the changes in their daily work life? Industry 4.0 takes over where Industry 3.0 left off. Whereas the third wave brought computerization to the manufacturing floor, we’ve now moved on to machine learning, AI and data-driven smart devices across the entire plant. Expectations are that Industry 4.0 will streamline the manufacturing and supply chain process, making it more efficient and productive while eliminating waste and downtime. It’s an exciting new world for industrials.
As this high level of automation and smart technology make its way into the factory, what is the impact IIoT will have on people on the shop floor? The same way that edge machines need to be updated and outfitted with sensors and monitored, employees need to learn how to reshape some of their activities. This is more than workers being replaced by robots and machines. There is always going to be a need for employees in manufacturing, but they risk being overwhelmed by the technology, making it more difficult to follow through on their tasks effectively.
There is an assumption that if you show proficiency at one type of technology, you can easily adapt to any new one. But just because employees are used to using smartphones or can issue commands to Alexa doesn’t mean they can figure out IIoT without adequate training or retooling.
Executives must make a concerted effort to train and engage their employees to have IIoT take off. This means investing time, budgets and energy in making sure to get it right – recognizing where the new job opportunities will be and what type of retraining is necessary. But it also means that employees need to understand their evolved roles and, of course, be flexible to the changes associated with Industry 4.0.
Changing the Organizational Culture
Technology can benefit any company, but only when used correctly. It needs to address current limitations and challenges faced, such as an inefficient supply chain, but we can’t expect to introduce technology onto the factory floor and expect operations to instantly improve. The shift to IIoT requires a change in organizational culture and a change in operational rules. It’s important to remember that the rules that were in place before IIoT were designed to adapt to the limitations and challenges. With smart devices now restructuring the work process, executives have to rethink the flow of operations and the behaviors in ensuring the manufacturing process continues to be completed in an efficient manner.
The first change in organizational culture comes through changing employee behaviors. The tasks, habits and repetitions of job duties in pre-IIoT won’t work in the current IIoT environment. What was once an automatic reaction to a task now must be restructured for a new process. Employees need to be reskilled on how smart technology will change the task and then they need the chance to practice it until the repetition becomes the new natural. Think of learning how to use a smartphone – the time it takes to learn the nuances of the device and the repetition to make using it natural. IIoT requires a learning curve.
The second change in organizational culture is a shift in job responsibilities and needs. There will be a need for new positions such as data scientists and process and design engineers, but current employees may be asked to learn new skills such as networking to keep the systems operational or to have basic cybersecurity training to recognize where potential threats are and how to prevent them. There will be a greater need for employees skilled in maintenance of smart devices and electronics, both in management and in hands on electrical and industrial controls.
A third change in organizational culture will likely be more subtle but still necessary, and that is the reliance on industrial service providers that handle cloud computing and data management. A new breed of providers is emerging that needs to be understood and accommodated.
By next year, it is expected that the manufacturing industry will invest more than $70 billion in IIoT, with nearly 1 billion devices and sensors installed. Factory executives expect this adoption of Industry 4.0 will result in a profitable ROI, with improved productivity and less waste. But this is only possible if executives recognize the employee impact of Industry 4.0 and how the skills and training of current staff and overall organization culture need to shift for it all to work at the highest efficiency. Even with a dynamic workforce and the best of technology, are we ready to make the transition?