Yes, people are an integral part of Smart Manufacturing.
People are resources that need to be connected to the processes orchestrated and data produced by the Smart Manufacturing system. We might appreciate disconnectivty when we are on vacation, but definitely not at work. We want to know what is happening at our operations as soon as possible. We want to be able to see when customers raise issues, when the production line is not running smoothly, and when problems are not being resolved in a timely manner.
Technicians, inspectors and material movers need function-specific applications that dispatch them to prioritized tasks and enable them to update status and document issues immediately. Some functions are performed at a desktop, other functions are performed on-the-go on a mobile device—function specific applications connect people at the place where they need to perform the function.
Some workforce resources might be external to the organization. As an example, smaller manufacturers can’t afford to keep every specialized skill as a full-time employee, and might need to route tasks to third-party contract technicians.
Managers need dashboards that display status, trends and alerts to focus their attention on where it is needed most. However, the old passive information model of aggregating data and providing metrics to managers to digest and take action is not enough to achieve new levels of productivity.
New active manufacturing systems need to automate routine decisions and trigger action based exceptions and unpredictable patterns that require experts to manually analyze for root-cause. There are always plenty of exceptions to manage in daily operations, so don’t worry, people will always be needed.
Legacy paper-based procedures promoted departmental silos by creating paperwork between people in different disciplines, departments and companies in the manufacturing value chain. Social communication and collaborative work tools can connect teams and communities in new ways breaking down old silo boundaries and creating new levels of efficiency in processing and trouble shooting procedures.
As the manufacturing enterprise becomes more connected, it creates the need for a new breed of talent—one that embraces computer skills as much as mechanical skills. The next generation of manufacturing talent must be able to collaborate across multidisciplinary walls, connect digital factories, interpret results from analytics, and protect supply chains from cyber intrusions. Manufacturers will face strong competition from high-tech companies in recruiting this talent and will need to elevate the importance of strategies to recruit, develop and retain the workforce of tomorrow.