20 signs that your manufacturing plant needs a digitization push with a Connected Worker system

How to determine if your manufacturing plant needs a digitization push? We have identified 20 signs that indicate you need a connected worker system.

Do you know what's going on?

While many production processes have been digitized over the course of the last years, the underlying organization of labour often remained unchanged. Although lean production principles have been introduced to remove waste, most manufacturing companies still have no visibility about what their people are working on right now and how long certain jobs take. The root cause lies in how work is organized. Paper based processes and static job types with fixed responsibilities do not offer full visibility about the production status in real-time. In addition, the ability to collaborate across functional areas and to flexibly organize work is limited.

Put operators first and extend Lean production with digital tools

Operators in manufacturing systems usually use the easiest possible method to exchange and communicate with each other. In conventional manufacturing systems this is most likely word of mouth communication, mail, phone or pen and paper. All these methods have one thing in common. They are unable to capture the complexity of modern production systems while often lacking efficiency and speed. A technology push is needed to replace the traditional way of communication and work organization. Instead of in person communication and paper processes, e.g. just to reorder material or assign tasks, mobile devices can be used to assign work, increase reaction speed and productivity.  

Connect your Workforce and realize productivity improvements

Software systems which put operators in the centre and focus on the flexible organization of human work are called Connected Worker Systems. In the Hype Cycle for Frontline Worker Technologies, Gartner summarizes the benefits for a Connected Worker Platform: “Integrating workers with their surroundings will boost production flexibility with faster and more proactive responses to the surrounding environment. It will also drive retention and a knowledge foundation for the enterprise.” Based on experience from our customer projects, we at WORKERBASE have learned that implementing a Connected Worker System can generate tremendous value, e.g. 5% improvement of Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) or 20% productivity increases for manual activities in batch production. 

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20 indicators you need a Connected Worker system

But what are the signs of whether new technologies are needed within production? The following 20 indicators enable management to detect if technological support with a modern system could be of help to operators.

  1. You print work orders, manuals etc. on paper. Information about how to set up machines and execute tasks are only available in a paper-based format, which leads to extended time to search and find the needed document.
  2. Multiple versions of the same document circulate on the shopfloor.
  3. Paper-based checklists are used during routine walks and afterwards typed into an Excel-Sheet to gather and store the relevant information.
  4. You have static job types and responsibilities. Tasks are assigned to specific people without knowing their availability, rather than to a group of people based on skills.
  5. Production issues and problems are always delegated to a specific maintenance operator, because only that operator can handle the task.
  6. Multiple people run after the same machine alarm.
  7. Manufacturing operators contact cross-functions in-person, thereby searching for them by walking through production.
  8. You have people supervising machines by walking around.
  9. You have no real-time overview of what your people are doing.
  10. The best people are always busy.
  11. Skill visibility is limited to personal knowledge of the supervisor of a certain manufacturing segment, but not generally available for management to access skill shortages. Supervisors do not know about worker’s skills and make bad assignments.
  12. Individual skill development and the plants required skills are not transparent to the operator.
  13. Training and onboarding heavily rely on shadowing instead of training-on-the-job supported by videos and an e-learning environment.
  14. The central point of knowledge are your operators. If they leave, they take all the knowledge with them.
  15. You have problems finding and retaining qualified staff.
  16. Rush orders induce issues at multiple levels within the manufacturing chain and are often stuck due to missing material or equipment.
  17. Excess material is stored at workstations.
  18. Components are produced even if not immediately needed.
  19. Quality issues are detected too late.
  20. You already have an ERP and/or MES system but making changes to your processes comes with high effort, e.g all resources are bound to a year-long ERP migration project.

How to overcome production challenges?

These signs cause inefficiencies on the shop floor that can be prevented through the use of modern technology. By deploying a Connected Worker system such as WORKERBASE you can transform the way how work is scheduled, executed and measured. The system easily integrates operators into the digital information flow by equipping them with mobile devices to:

  • Communicate with other operators and cross functions
  • Flexibly assign work based on skills and availability
  • Retrieve data from a central knowledge repository
  • Improve and manage skills 
  • Shorten reaction times
  • Increase flexibility to handle rush orders and other manufacturing hiccups

Through these measures conventional manufacturing systems are transformed into an agile manufacturing system with increased factory output through higher utilization of operators and equipment as well as several other benefits of agile production systems.

The WORKERBASE Connected Worker system can be implemented in only a few weeks. It easily integrates with your existing IT systems and does not require huge upfront investments. Even if you are currently undertaking a year-long ERP or MES migration project, a system such as WORKERBASE can be implemented to realize short-term improvements and to digitally enable human workflows. Please contact us if you are interested in how to overcome your production challenges in a short period of time.

Connect workers with machines

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