The new industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – brings many changes. Not least to the people working in the manufacturing industry. This article provides you with a guide of how to get the highest return on your Industry 4.0 investment by letting your employees play an active part in the process.

 

Digitalization and Industry 4.0 are the big talking points in the manufacturing industry these days. A digital transformation takes time. But companies can get off to a good start by combining a digital approach with the huge know-how and potential of their workforce. This article focuses on 5 human aspects that a manufacturing company must consider to benefit fully from Industry 4.0.

 

1) APPOINT CHANGE AMBASSADORS
All change is hard. And especially if you have to change ways of working that have existed for many years. Investing in new equipment and asking employees to start working in a totally different way is therefore not an option. The production management needs to convince employees that the new technologies can be used to their advantage. By appointing a group of change ambassadors consisting of existing employees who have a positive mindset towards the new technologies, you will quickly be able to influence the rest of your workforce in a positive direction. Make sure that the change ambassadors have personal qualities such as empathy, excellent communication skills and a certain amount of knowledge of digital working processes.

 

2) HIRE EMPLOYEES WITH THE RIGHT COMPETENCIES
The image of the traditional production worker is changing in line with the rapid industrial development.  Whereas tangible know-how of the operation of a certain type of plant used to be the most important competence of a production worker, Industry 4.0 puts much higher demands on the flexibility and adaptability of the workforce. A worker who is faced with new technology must be able to adopt it and quickly learn how to work with it. Consequently, these qualities are to be prioritized over technical diplomas when hiring new employees.

 

3) UPSKILL YOUR WORKFORCE
The existing workforce possesses a deep and unique knowledge of both products and production plant. However, workers often lack knowledge of how to use and benefit from the new technologies. At the same time, companies are – for several reasons – finding it increasingly difficult to attract new employees. An important step towards benefitting fully from Industry 4.0 is therefore to upskill the existing workforce. Companies need to invest in technical competencies, but it is also paramount to equip the workforce with the personal qualities described in #2.

 

4) GIVE YOUR EMPLOYEES OWNERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY
You will not be able to implement Industry 4.0 overnight. But by starting the implementation with investing in e.g. collection of data from your existing plant, you can gain knowledge that you can use for giving your employees responsibility and ownership of the production process. The data will often confirm knowledge that the employees already have. Only now, this knowledge will be based on facts instead of feelings. This can start a process where employees actively start seeking data and will regard the new technology as a colleague and not a threat. Curiosity will be triggered, and employees will feel a greater sense of ownership as they will be able to quickly and independently achieve significant improvements. At the same time, tangible data will provide them with solid arguments of why a certain process should be changed. As a side benefit, the working environment will be improved as errors and downtime can be predicted and prevented before actually taking place.

 

5) LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
The last area – which is quite important to remember – is simple, yet difficult. As mentioned earlier, employees have detailed knowledge of the production, they are working with. And if they are upskilled on both a personal and professional level, they will be able to contribute even more to the operation and optimization of the production. Companies therefore need to listen to their employees and the ideas and thoughts that they share. Although we have advanced technologies at our disposal, human skills remain indispensable.

 

Written by: Jesper Rantala, Director Data Intelligence - Eltronic