Published: Jun 28, 2019

The factory of the future is here…again

Did you know 65 percent of manufacturers are currently executing or actively planning digital transformation initiatives?

Let’s face it, we can’t ignore the fact that the manufacturing industry is undergoing a period of dramatic change, commonly referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, aka, Industry 4.0 or Manufacturing 4.0, during which automation, artificial intelligence & machine learning, advanced analytics, and other emerging technologies make the prospect of digitizing everything in the factory a potential reality. 

But we also need to remember, automation and transformation is not a new phenomenon, having been a part of the manufacturing landscape since the first industrial revolution in the late 18th century when water and steam power added mechanization to factories. Since then, the manufacturing industry has been impacted by two other revolutions, the second in the late 19th century when electricity and assembly lines made mass production possible, and the third in the 1970s when advances in computer programming began to transform the industry and streamline production processes. 

The robots are coming, right?

While recent media headlines might suggest that robots will soon replace all the human beings on the factory floor in modern manufacturing facilities, that is far from the reality of the future. Despite continued automation and new technologies emerging in smart factories during Manufacturing 4.0, the workforce still has and will continue to play a mission-critical role in the success of the industry going forward. 

In fact, according to a recent study by A.T. Kearny and Drishti, seventy-two percent of the tasks in a factory are performed by humans, and more importantly, seventy-one percent of the value created by the operation comes from human actions

The most intelligent asset in the smart factory

Your employees are the only assets capable of innovating and making decisions fueled by data and emotional intelligence, and manufacturers must not underestimate the human factor when it comes to the digital transformation of their operations. 

The good news is many manufacturers recognize this, as we recently learned when we collaborated with Industry Week on a survey entitled Digital Transformation and the Workforce. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the key insights from the survey:

  • The top two benefits anticipated from digital transformation initiatives include:
    • Higher productivity
    • Faster response to requests, changes, and customization
  • The clear majority (71 percent) of manufacturers consider the workforce to be extremely or very important in supporting their digital transformation strategy: 
    • 52 percent of manufacturers are prioritizing investments in skills training to prepare the workforce for their Industry 4.0 programs
    • 40 percent of manufacturers are making significant investments in employee enablement technologies 
  • For manufacturers investing in employee enablement technologies, two capabilities are either essential or very important to their digital transformation efforts:
    • Data-driven performance insights 
    • Real-time analytics and performance KPI dashboards 
  • Manufacturers recognize the potential benefits of employee enablement technologies:

 

Top Benefits of Employee Enablement Technology


Regardless of where your organization is in its Industry 4.0 journey, you can learn more about the barriers, additional benefits and expected financial impact from other manufacturers undergoing digital transformation by viewing the complete interactive survey report from Industry Week.

HUMANufacturing and the factory of the future

To capitalize on the potential of the smart factory evolution, manufacturers must ensure the workforce are active participants in the adoption and deployment of advanced technologies. The best way to bring employees into the digital transformation effort, is to incorporate technologies that have a direct and positive impact on the employee experience. Doing so will enable manufacturers to harness the full potential of the human element to drive their factory of the future forward.

Check out this video to learn how Kronos workforce management technology can enhance your digital transformation by enabling you to deliver a better employee experience and achieve operational agility.