Welcome to 2020 – a new decade poised for new innovations. The last ten years brought about many new consumer technologies; the iPad made its debut to the World spurring the now immense tablet market, Samsung released a 3D television to the masses, and we first said “Hello” to Alexa via the Amazon Echo.

Technological innovations within the manufacturing industry were no less abundant. Robotics, artificial intelligence, mobility, and the industrial internet of things, ushered the way for the digitization of plant floors and have driven manufacturers to further develop their digital transformation strategies.  In fact, a report from McKinsey recently found that “68% of organizations say digital manufacturing is a top priority.

That being said, focusing solely on digital manufacturing isn’t enough to remain competitive. A study conducted by Comcast found that for companies to stay relevant, a relentless focus on an empathetic customer experience, supported by connected technologies and networked infrastructure, must be a part of any digital transformation strategy. Today, leaders in digital business models such as Uber, Google, and IBM understand this and are building businesses with a platform and ecosystem approach in order to meet changing customer expectations. 

So what exactly are platform technologies, and how can implementing them bring value to manufacturers?

Platforms provide a stable infrastructure and core processes that allow manufacturers to adapt rapidly to changing conditions, as well as facilitate the sharing of information across systems including the ERP.

McKinsey reports, “the ability to link digital devices—shop-floor monitors, remote computers, smartphones, tablets, and so on—to IT platforms and systems enables decision makers to access a flow of relevant information in real time.”  This access to data and connectivity across all business systems in real time enables manufacturers to make the right decisions at the right time, increasing efficiencies while supporting agility and innovation.

While platform technologies have taken the forefront with production and supply chain management as the foundation of digital transformation for manufacturers, people are the driving force. It’s the intersection of the two that will foster the future of work as a new decade begins.

How can manufacturers drive value from using platform technologies with their people? Applying labor data derived from workforce management technology to other areas of the business can provide valuable insights and possibly higher productivity. Capacity planning, for example, can be managed more effectively with the right labor forecasting technologies in place, and increased visibility into scheduling alongside production can help managers put the right people in the right job at the right time.

Implementing this technology alongside other smart factory initiatives can also help manufacturers gain a competitive edge by offering a better employee experience. How? Flexible API structures allow for the integration of other technologies that can offer employees benefits including instant access to pay, streamlined work communications, allow for their voices to be heard through surveys, and provide them the option to access their schedules where it’s convenient for them, including mobile.  

To remain competitive, manufacturers need to transform. The opportunity to begin investing in platform technologies to create greater visibility, connectedness, and a better employee experience is already available. This comes with some risk – as the biggest business impact is made with the biggest investment. To optimize the value of those investments, manufactures need to also focus on their people.

…Most organizations are still on the journey to HR agility and technological advancement. ‘The haves’ – who tend to be larger, sophisticated organizations – are experimenting with emerging technologies in advanced ways as many ‘have nots’ drown in manual work, unable to consider future of work automation. In 2020, this chasm can narrow for organizations that choose to modernize their workforce solutions and processes with a strong change management strategy.” -Workforce Institute

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Published: Friday, January 24, 2020