The impact of COVID-19 has placed pressure on manufacturing operations leaders to maintain business operations and business continuity. Here are four ways that connected worker technology is shaping the future industrial workforce.

Four Ways Digital Technology is Helping Frontline Workers Operate in Today’s New Normal

The global pandemic has changed frontline work and given workers a new type of normal – and for many manufacturers, the change will be permanent.

The impact of COVID-19, and subsequent changes in how factories are located, staffed, managed and digitized, as well as how customers are supported is placing pressure on manufacturing operations leaders. According to McKinsey & Co., manufacturing companies of every size are now turning to digital and connected worker technology as a way to maintain business operations and business continuity. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) based remote collaboration are now central to the corporate innovation portfolio of any business leader and crucial to boosting productivity at a time when enterprises most need it.

Here are four ways that connected worker technology is shaping the future industrial workforce and helping frontline workers operate at peak levels of safety, quality, and productivity during these times.

1. Provide Remote Assistance

Travel limitations and restrictions have forced companies to re-think how they support their staff and customers. As a result of COVID-19, manufacturers have initiated policies that encourage remote working, eliminate non-essential travel and instruct employees who are sick or under quarantine to stay home. This directly impacts the progression of operations that typically take place when multiple workers collaborate onsite.

AR-based virtual collaboration tools are providing business continuity for companies that can no longer rely on face-to-face interactions.

With on-demand remote expert functionality, onsite workers can quickly pull in an offsite colleague when their expertise is required. Many manufacturers are also extending this out to support virtual collaboration with 3rd party dealers and suppliers, customers, and even field service teams for those companies that provide equipment service and support. Digital work procedures, videos, realtime data and more are readily available and allow remote subject matter experts to intelligently guide and help workers on the job.

2. Reimagine Training

One of the challenges that has emerged during this pandemic has been workforce variability. Flexible staffing is becoming more the norm, and training/re-skilling is more important now than ever.

Traditional methods of classroom training have now become impractical if not impossible, and many companies are looking towards connected worker technology to help shorten training times and accelerate onboarding for new technicians. Use augmented reality (AR), visual aids, and contextual information to guide workers through complex tasks and deliver AR-based training experiences.

For example, Bio-Chem Fluidics, a mid-sized manufacturing company, was able to reduce new employee training time by over 80% – from three months down to two weeks. The use of visual aids and short training videos within digitized work procedures allowed their operation to onboard technicians at a faster rate and reduce downtime during learning periods, resulting in improved productivity.

3. Improve Quality and Productivity through Augmented Work Instructions

Another area where connected worker technology helps is through augmented work instructions. Equipped with digital devices that could include tablets, mobile phones, or even AR-enabled industrial smart glasses, frontline workers are able to receive fully augmented, guided instructions on any device to improve productivity, quality and allow workers to perform their jobs more independently. These help guide workers with visual aids, AR/MR experiences, and contextual information.

Digital work instructions enable manufacturing workers, customers, dealers, and field service technicians to complete assembly, installation, maintenance, or repair procedures at 100% quality without requiring face-to-face support. Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) can be used to amplify the value that digital work instructions bring to the connected worker. AI is used to personalize the instructions to each worker’s proficiency level, which helps intelligently close the skills gap and enable workers to perform at their best.

4. Uncover Continuous Improvement Opportunities

It’s critical for manufacturers to monitor processes and track progress during this time so that they can make quick adjustments to ensure overall optimization. Our view at Augmentir is that the purpose of a connected worker platform isn’t simply to deliver instructions and remote support to a frontline worker, but rather to optimize the performance of the connected worker ecosystem.

Incorporating AI into a connected worker strategy enables true organizational optimization using the rich stream of activity data to recommend improvement actions to frontline workers, continuous improvement specialists, trainers, manufacturing engineers, and operation and service managers.

  • AI-based connected worker platforms can use granular data to identify the largest opportunities across the frontline workforce
  • For example, Augmentir’s AI-powered connected worker platform looks through all job data and uses AI to cleanse the data set and recognize the largest improvement opportunities for your company in productivity, training, quality, and delivers them to your team automatically through insights in the system
  • In doing that, the system learns a lot about each worker, and can dynamically match the instructions to each worker’s proficiency and capability, intelligently closing the skills gap
  • Finally, AI bots allow you to accumulate tribal knowledge (that your subject matter experts know) and convert it into a scalable, digital corporate asset

With an ecosystem of content authors, frontline workers, subject matter experts, operations managers, continuous improvement engineers, and quality specialists, there are dozens of opportunities to improve performance.

Now is the time to consider these and start digitizing and connecting your frontline workforce. These technologies are proving to be practical and effective ways to close skill gaps and transform training efforts – allowing your frontline workers to work safely and efficiently in today’s new normal. Book a personalized demo to learn more.