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Faced with the digital transformation within factories, companies in the manufacturing sector are telling us about their priority to place worker experience at the heart of this industrial revolution. Indeed, among financial, cultural change and production risks associated with a digitalization project, “Management risks, like teams rejecting digitalization, that it generates a deep cultural change,” come first for medium and large companies in the manufacturing sector in France1. Hence, the change that digital transformation implies shouldn't just be a showstopper for technicians...it should bring value to them.
Digitalization is not only an opportunity for operational excellence but also to make workers’ lives better
According to an interview of 5,433 production employees at production companies across 22 countries, 71% say their tasks are dull, dangerous or dirty2. So, let’s see how digital transformation can help restore meaning to their work and help them improve the quality of their tasks.
The role of CX (Customer eXperience) when driving and delivering digitalization projects in the manufacturing sector
To deliver an optimal experience for factory workers, the solution provider must collaborate hand-in-hand with their customers, the company's Operational Technology Managers. “This is exactly what we do. We put together a customer-centric team, and we listen to our customers, applying CX methodologies, and we focus on their challenges and expectations to provide them with our best solutions,” explains David Sherman, CX Coach at Orange Business.
These are their main concerns:
• Support technicians with their production activities and make better-quality products
• Assist them with their maintenance tasks and enhance their performance
• Ensure the highest possible onsite safety
Challenge 1: Support technicians with their production activities and make better-quality products
First, quality-control managers want manufacturing technicians to have the support they need to be more efficient and proactive in handling challenging inspections and non-conformity detection, since standard sampling procedures do not detect all defects. Artificial intelligence algorithms can help technicians detect defects through automatic detection, alerts and suggestions for next-step actions. Additionally, to ensure that production units are handled carefully in the warehouse through to delivery, asset tracking technologies enable geolocation tracking of products, including their condition while being stored and transported.
These solutions have many benefits for manufacturing companies. They help reduce in-field service costs (reduced time for anomaly detection and its root cause analysis, decision assistance and reduced training time); decrease non-conformity risks/real-time tracking of defect occurrence; improve end-customer satisfaction with better-quality products; and reduce after-sales service costs.
Challenge 2: Assist operators with maintenance tasks and enhance their performance
Machine downtime is a pet peeve of maintenance managers, but its occurrence is often due to a lack of awareness of the maintenance state of the equipment. To prevent downtime, sensors can be placed on machines to capture maintenance status information (humidity, temperature, voltage, etc.). This information is then transmitted and centralized into dashboards to enable real-time monitoring of factory assets and instant alerts about behaviors that could trigger downtime.
Maintenance team managers also want their technicians to have the equipment they need to competently perform maintenance operations, particularly complex tasks, and they want to avoid expensive field intervention due to manipulation errors. One solution is to equip technicians with connected glasses and headgear to wear while performing work orders, maintenance tasks, shift handovers, etc. – all hands free. To ensure take-up and proper use, operating guidelines or access to a remote expert is provided.
Another important concern is the time wasted by workers while they search for misplaced tools and spare parts and making sure that tools and parts can be found quickly. An asset-tracking solution is the answer here. It enables manufacturers to track equipment and parts anywhere on the production site.
With these improvements, manufacturers can: reduce training, operations and travel costs; optimize the use of maintenance tools; optimize the intervention process, work recording and auditing; and increase collaboration and knowledge sharing between colleagues.
Challenge 3: Ensure the highest possible onsite safety
At any given time, thousands of workers and contractors are onsite and have access to the facility, including dangerous areas. Actual numbers can fluctuate greatly from day to day, and HSE (health, safety and environment) managers need to track everyone's position and prevent congestion and unauthorized access.
Here, too, asset tracking solutions enable the geolocation tracking of staff and vehicles and can send alerts to warn of congested areas and unauthorized accesses.
HSE managers also need to ensure that operators wear their PPE (personal protective equipment), like protective glasses, masks, helmets, etc., and they need to be able to act fast in the case of an accident. Solutions like computer vision (camera, image analysis, artificial intelligence) can automatically detect hazardous situations, like the absence of protective equipment or a man down, and send an alert to a supervisor.
Ensuring appropriate environmental conditions for the well-being of employees and to comply with strict regulatory obligations is also a challenge for the HSE manager. To help, facilities can be equipped with sensors to collect temperature, humidity and air-quality data, which then can be centralized into a dashboard with alert capabilities in the case of reaching a threshold.
With these innovative connected tools, manufacturers can now more easily respect safety rules, decrease incidents and respond faster to those that do occur, improve well-being at work, ensure operations-continuity safeguards, and mitigate compliance and reputational risk.
When driving digitalization projects in the manufacturing sector, the focus on employee and customer experience is a key success factor, not only in delivering operational excellence but also in making workers’ lives better.
1Interview conducted by IFOP in May 2021 among 100 Exco Members of mid-caps (249-5,000 employees) of the manufacturing sector in France
2The rise of the smarter, swifter, safer production employee, Ericsson Industry Lab (November 2021)
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Cécile Bidois is Head of Industry 4.0 Marketing at Orange Business. Cécile supports our account teams and their customers in the digital transformation of their industrial processes. Together, we aim at pinpointing the challenges of this industrial revolution to improve security, quality and productivity within factories.