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People: A Key Factor in the Success of The Connected Enterprise

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When implementing a Connected Enterprise infrastructure, both managers and engineers tend to focus primarily on technology. However, successful implementation of The Connected Enterprise relies on three pillars, only one of which is technology.

The other two – the processes and people – are often ignored. In my experience, people are the key factor towards achieving a successful implementation.

Changes in Processes

Technologies developed for The Connected Enterprise can increase productivity, productivity, reduce unexpected downtime and time-consuming operation, and even improve customer service.

However, merely installing a number of additional sensors in the manufacturing plant will not bring benefits worth the costs incurred.

The added value appears only when these new technologies are implemented in a way that is sympathetic to company processes.

The Connected Enterprise makes it possible to automate many operations that previously required manual checking, or human contact.

A good example would be checking the progress of an executed order. Currently, companies rely on ERP systems, from which top level managers can learn only if the product is ready or not. If you want to know the details or precise status, they must contact the production manager.

After the implementation of The Connected Enterprise, more in-depth and accurate information is available from the ERP system with just a single click, so managers can more quickly find everything they need to know, without involving plant personnel.

What's more, the same precise progress information can be shared with customers.

This is something that is becoming more and more common, and is now considered good practice in B2C and B2B operations.

Changes in People

Adapting processes to leverage the capabilities of new technology can be relatively straightforward, but getting people to adapt – asking them to change long-term habits – is not so easy.

Being the director of a factory, I know this from experience. Here we are talking about psychological factors, which are much more difficult to change and control.

Even with this new advanced technology, our manager from the previous example, will still want to reach for the phone and speak to the production manager to find out some detail about the orders.

This manager will also be equipped with a smartphone, which he only uses for telephone calls. As a result, the money spent on his phone technology will simply be wasted.

The mere changing of habits is not everything. There is also a need to enhance the competency of employees, so they know how to use the available technology.

It may turn out that the employee does not use the new functions available simply because they cannot, just as many smartphone users do not really know how to use all the various applications on their device.

Quick Decisions

To be able to fully benefit from The Connected Enterprise, users must first of all acquire two skills.

The first applies to virtually all workers – the ability to make quick decisions. Get instant access to any information on the state of the processes requires rapid analysis in order for decisions to be made regarding the next steps.

Modern systems simplify data gathering too and, as a result, free up the time to rethink further steps that was previously spent physically visiting lineside devices and recording Sensors indication disappear.

With The Connected Enterprise, all information is presented quickly, so employee should make decisions in no time- otherwise employee becomes a “bottleneck” of process performance.

Representation of Reality

The second valuable skill in the world Industry 4.0 is the ability to analyze the data and relationships, and then translate them into the language of computers.

Experienced process engineers have a wealth of knowledge, which helps them to increase the efficiency of processes and reduce costs. With the implementation of The Connected Enterprise, the amount of data collected from processes is greatly increased, which increases the potential for optimization.

But this increase in data also makes it difficult for normal human beings to analyze it effectively.

Therefore, technicians will have to learn how to transfer their knowledge to the interior of the system, so that the analysis of the data takes place automatically.

Value also lies in the ability to recognize new dependencies, which will periodically verify whether the conclusions of the systems correspond to reality.

Again, you can find an analogy to smartphones: in order to fully exploit their capabilities, you should install and update applications or even create new ones.

With this mind-set the potential of The Connected Enterprise will not be wasted, and the company will benefit in a way similar to the conversion of analogue to smartphones.

Szymon Krupinski
Szymon Krupinski
Plant Manager, Rockwell Automation

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