Challenges associated with attracting and retaining workers to the manufacturing and processing industries have been ongoing for decades. And while some types of automation technologies, such as robots, help keep humans out of the repetitive and potentially injury-inducing work that can make industrial employment less desirable, other types can also help attract and retain human workers.
Chief among these technologies that can help attract workers are connected frontline worker (CFW) platforms. This Industry 4.0 technology is designed to guide workers in their tasks using smart glasses, smartphones, tablets, and PCs, enabling them to handle complex processes.
Dominic Gallello, CEO of Symphony Industrial AI, a supplier of CFW, digital manufacturing, and plant performance technologies, explains that CFW systems “leverage cloud computing, mobile telecommunications, and wearable technology to inform front line workers and offer them state-of-the-art, human-driven instruction support by providing ‘byte size’ work directions to act upon.”
Benefits of CFW technology cited by Gallello, include:
- Up to 50% savings of time on operations such as changeovers through standard work guidance;
- Facilitating autonomous maintenance with step-by-step instruction workflows;
- 30% faster onboarding of new workers;
- Achieving 100% compliance with work duties via automatic execution logs; and
- Time savings of up to 70% on inspection process with digital CAPA (corrective and preventative actions) management.
“At the core of CFW platforms are digital workflow execution engines that consist of two parts,” notes Peter Verstraeten, CEO of Proceedix, a Symphony IndustrialAI company that supplies digital work instructions and inspection software. “First, the authoring component enables business experts to create and maintain all kinds of workflows to provide step-by-step guidance for operators, technicians, and inspectors in various industries. Second, the digital execution system automatically logs all workflow execution details to assure 100% transparency and compliance—anytime and anywhere—whether the worker is online or offline.”
Beyond delivering specific work instructions and logging activities, CFW platforms also integrate with existing business and operations systems to provide workers with source instructions and inspections from manufacturing information systems, such ERP (enterprise resource planning), MES (manufacturing execution systems), CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems), and LIMS (laboratory information management systems). Such integration also enables CFW platforms to loop worker feedback into these systems.
“This allows for business intelligence platforms to assess performance, check compliance, and identify areas for improvement using this new, correlated data,” says Gallello.