4 benefits of a connected workforce in manufacturing

  • Joe Mulrooney
  • Solutions
  • Manufacturing
  • 2022
January 24, 2022

Connected workforce in manufacturing: A manufacturing worker types on a laptop.

The manufacturing skills gap is projected to leave more than 2 million jobs unfilled by 2030, costing the US economy as much as $1 trillion, according to a report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

When COVID-19 hit, about 1.4 million people lost manufacturing jobs, according to the report. Although the industry has hired back many workers, hundreds of thousands of positions remain unfilled. On top of layoffs, workers are retiring en masse.

In response, manufacturers are scrambling to change their processes related to hiring, onboarding, and knowledge sharing. The emerging workforce will need to manage Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, use analytical tools to inform their decisions, and oversee technologically advanced operations—while keeping the lights on and training the next generation.

At the same time, manufacturers have to keep up with evolving regulatory guidelines to improve safety and ensure compliance. To meet these needs, manufacturers are trying to build the smart factory of the future.

Factory workers are an integral part of this journey. After all, better enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, manufacturing execution systems (MES), computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), robots, conveyers, and machinery still require people to make everything run.

Executives should work to build a connected workforce that leverages digital tools to streamline processes and digitize knowledge. Let's explore four benefits of a connected workforce in manufacturing:

1. Reduced human error

In the coming years, manufacturers will need to onboard new workers and upskill them with on-the-job training. Experienced employees can quickly pivot to a different production run or collaborate with the team, but new hires need extra help. While new hires are getting up to speed, they have the potential to make mistakes. According to the Department of Energy, 80% to 90% of downtime is caused by human error.

To reduce human error, manufacturers rely on standard operating procedures (SOPs) recorded in paper manuals or orally communicated by employees. But with the current labor shortages, and with the rapid evolution of manufacturing technologies, organizations can’t rely on paper and institutional knowledge. Outdated SOPs can even cause dangerous workplace conditions.

A connected workforce that leverages digitally recorded SOPs will find it easier to capture and relay information. Digital workflows can seamlessly guide employees to execute tasks and procedures accurately, with easy accessibility from a laptop or mobile device. Digital record keeping and knowledge transfer prevent human error, provide intuitive training for new hires, and allow employees to keep up with evolving processes.

A connected workforce is the key to manufacturing success—enabling your team to drive better action on the factory floor.

2. Supercharged efficiency

Creating a connected workforce breaks down silos and contributes to a better employee experience. Workers should be able to communicate digitally and access information on a single platform—from their office, the factory floor, or off-site.

Manufacturers should look into systems that connect and allow collaboration across ERP, MES, quality management, customer service, and customer relationship management (CRM). Easier collaboration and clearer context can help employees make better, faster decisions, driving efficiency across the entire production team.

3. Improved OEE and COGM

Connecting plant operators with mobile digital tools enables work to get done faster, better, and at a lower cost. Digital SOPs helps ensure that even your newest hire performs the next best possible action. IoT insights, previously confined to management dashboards, are turned into workflows that drive action on the factory floor.

Escalations alert operators to leave non-urgent routine tasks and rally where they’re most needed. Research has shown these improvements can yield a significant improvement in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and reduce cost of goods manufactured (COGM).

4. Increased standard work and safety compliance

Manufacturers are burdened with considerable regulatory reporting, from filling out forms to sending emails to making sure papers are signed. Moving those tasks online can ease the burden.

When simple routine tasks such as 5S and safety inspections are digitized, the system sees to it that nothing is missed. Auditable records with time and date stamps are stored in the cloud. Issue reporting and alerts go out to the appropriate teams, with appropriate escalation paths if responses are not timely.

Transform your operational processes

A connected workforce is the key to manufacturing success—enabling your team to drive better action on the factory floor. With all information and feedback captured in one platform, built-in predictive intelligence analyzes trends and uncovers opportunities for improvement.

Find out how ServiceNow® Manufacturing Connected Workforce puts employees front and center, gives plant leaders visibility into processes and roadblocks, and equips workers with the tools they need to succeed from day one.

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