Industrial organizations: scale operations to enhance employee productivity and reduce burnout
Manufacturers across industries face a common challenge. Many of the skilled tradespeople who power the manufacturing process are retiring. It’s a brain drain that threatens to impact the production of critical products from airplanes to artificial joints. And with manufacturing on track to see 2.1 million jobs left unfilled by 2030, it’s a problem likely to impact all manufacturers, no matter their size.
One solution? Embrace the industrial internet of things (IIoT) for digital solutions that make it easier for workers to do their jobs (and more comfortable for them to stay at work for the long haul).
In this piece, we’ll look at how industrial organizations can use IIoT-tooled smart factories to enhance employee productivity and reduce burnout. The end result? A better employee experience that adds new value streams and sustains customer relationships.
The digital tools that power better business-to-human connections
For companies invested in a business-to-human (B2H) approach to work, making it easier for humans to do their work is paramount. That means finding new ways for employees to share knowledge, power enhanced productivity, and reduce burnout.
The reason is simple. Burnt-out workers are likely to cut corners and possibly create products that are less satisfying for customers to use. And for products where safety is critical (think: medtech and aviation) even the possibility of error can seriously damage the trust a manufacturer has built with their customers over the years.
Of course, it takes an empathetic approach to build trust with your customers and frame a better workplace for your employees. But the right tools can make that work a bit easier.
Think of smart factories like a toolbox and IIoT as the collection of interoperable tools inside that toolbox. The elements might be more technologically advanced than a hammer, straight-edge, level, and nails; but, like all tools, the result is the same: they make it easier for humans to work.
For more about how IIoT supports a better workplace read on.
Data helps power better employee experiences
A key benefit of smart factories is how they make sharing and analyzing information, like facility-specific climate data critical to the manufacture of medical devices, more efficient. It’s a process that’s completed in two interconnected ways:
IIoT tools streamline how data is gathered, processed, displayed, and stored.
Workers using IIoT tools can access and share information to eliminate information silos.
Consider, for example, the benefits of a smart factory for a manufacturer that produces medical devices. The manufacture of artificial joints or glucose monitors, along with the components and tools used to fabricate these implants, is regulated by strict sterilization standards. So to maintain those standards, the factory’s climate must be tightly controlled.
A smart factory can be outfitted with thermostats that include built-in smart sensors. Throughout the manufacturing process, these sensors can collect data about the environmental factors in the facility and wirelessly send it to cloud-based storage. AI-powered tools can then analyze this data to automate the climate-control process that balances outdoor elements with internal facility factors. The result: precise climate conditions inside the factory.
Likewise, with critical environmental data (such as temperature and humidity levels) viewable on displays throughout the facility, workers can quickly recognize when an environment has become too hot or cold and choose whether to take actions, such as turning off equipment, that can also impact ambient temperature.
With benefits like real-time temperature monitoring and automated climate protocols, along with tools that help eliminate decision fatigue, employees are less likely to burn out and make mistakes. Or worse, simply not see or feel a change the IIoT system automatically registers, logs, and manages.
The more efficiently employers design their workflows, the safer, more comfortable, and more productive work is for their employees. All this makes it easier, too, to scale production and serve more customers when the time comes. Next, let’s dive a bit deeper into how.
Leverage cumulative data to scale and refine value streams
Happier employees are more productive employees. So it’s clear manufacturers who care about their employees (and want to retain them) can benefit from adopting IIoT-powered smart factories and to help relieve their workloads. Another benefit? The same tools manufacturers use to help workers more efficiently communicate and do their jobs with less stress can refine value streams to deliver better customer experiences.
From design to production, from fulfillment to putting products in the hands of the end user, smart factories help manufacturers offer customers a seamless product experience.
Again, let’s consider how this might look for a medtech supplier. In this case, rather than components of an implant, the manufacturer is refining an app used to control a glucose monitor. Sensors on the facility floor can collect production data (e.g., units produced per hour), and combine that with sales data (e.g., average units ordered per month). Then, that data can be analyzed to dynamically scale the manufacturing process.
Say, for example, that the machine used to fabricate the glucose monitor casings is calibrated to work at 50% of its capacity. For a company invested in controlling costs and waste, moderating production is an efficient and pragmatic choice. Manufacturers who adopt IIoT, however, can automate an AI-driven protocol that reviews customer orders and increases production to match demand.
And while this data can help make a more cost-effective and efficient manufacturing process, it also offers customer-friendly benefits. The manufacturing data, for example, can be included in customer-targeted newsletters that offer insights about product development, updates, and what’s coming next.
Want better employee and customer experiences? Embrace change
Some manufacturers are interested in IIoT but feel daunted by the process of overhauling their legacy systems. Others, still, may hesitate to fully adopt what they view as disruptive tech. Embracing change, however, can help manufacturers promote better experiences for their employees and their customers.
Embracing change might mean shifting your mindset. That’s ok. We get it. We’ve been there. Infact, TXI’s approach to product innovation helps manufacturers focus on what’s worked, what needs refinement, and what possibilities lie ahead. For more, reach out.
Published by Jason Hehman