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Surviving the Skills Gap: Protect Productivity with new IoT Solutions

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Reports predict the manufacturing skills gap could leave 2.4 million skilled positions unfilled in the next decade. But for you, more important than this statistic is how you’re going to solve the problems this crisis creates in your facilities.

Like how to replace that nearly irreplaceable engineer who’s about to retire. Or how to adjust operations as you wait months for an operator position to be filled.

There are several steps you can take to protect your operations from the challenges of a shrinking skilled labor pool – like using training to reskill workers, outsourcing tasks to vendors and recruiting a new generation of workers.

But one of the most immediate steps you can take is using solutions like digital workforce productivity that simplify your workers’ jobs and enhance how they work.

Get More from Workers

It can be inherently difficult to see the right path forward when you’re in the middle of a skills shortage. Even when the right talent is in place, many companies still get stuck on questions like “Where do I start?” and “What technologies do I need?”

That’s where a digital workforce productivity solution comes to play. It leverages your existing infrastructure, so you don’t have to rip out and replace systems. And by bringing siloed systems together, users gain better analytics for their pressing questions, expert guidance and work instructions through augmented reality.

Every sort of opportunity can be created, because the solution combines all the technology for your challenge, saving you the hassle of having to hunt down and evaluate products.

For instance, you can provide contextualized information like role-specific instructions to workers. This can reduce job complexity, especially for new, less experienced workers. You can also record processes to quickly uncover production issues or operator mistakes and optimize them.

Unify Data and Boost Productivity

A digital workforce productivity solution unifies data sources from the many systems that workers interact with – like ERP, MES, PLM and quality – to provide real-time visibility across all of them.

This can put an end to users interacting with multiple systems and using out-of-date data to make decisions. And it can start a new era of workers viewing information in a single place and seeing issues in real time – or even predicting issues before they occur.

Of course, having access to useful, real-time analytics is just the start. The true value of a digital workforce productivity solution comes in how it applies that information to improve users’ daily jobs.

For example, paper- and text-based work instructions are often out of date or lack integration with engineering. A digital workforce productivity solution can use your 3D CAD data or ERP work orders to create digitalized, in-context work instructions.

The solution can also be used for real-time workforce performance monitoring. This can help you monitor how long a process is taking an operator and uncover ways to improve productivity times.

Additionally, it leverages disruptive technologies with the solution to not only improve but transform how workers do their jobs. With augmented reality (AR), for example, you can overlay digital repair instructions on a downed machine for a faster recovery or replicate real-world production scenarios in training to better prepare workers for their jobs.

Today, the results we’ve seen for an average, $5 billion manufacturer include:

  • Increased worker productivity 5-35%
  • Increased quality up to 90%
  • Reduced training time to proficiency by 20-30%

And those are in addition to a reduced risk of safety incidents.

Early Successes

What do those results look like for a real company? One maker of wind turbines was an early adopter of a new digital workforce productivity solution. The company used the solution to find a better way to get information to workers by leveraging visual cues and rich CAD content.

As the company’s IoT and Industry 4.0 lead put it: “Removing the text instructions lets employees focus on the physical object in front of them and significantly reduces the time spent finding the information needed.”

To learn how you can use digital solutions to achieve similar successes in your operations, visit the Information Solutions web page.

Suellen Lorkowski
Suellen Lorkowski
Technical Consultant, Information Software, Rockwell Automation
Suellen Lorkowski

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