How the Industrial Internet of Things Creates a “Hand-in-Metal” Workforce

August 18, 2017

You’ve likely noticed that the manufacturing industry is changing rapidly — largely due to the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of internet-connected devices. Within the manufacturing space in particular, organizations are leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — a subcategory of IoT — to improve health and safety conditions and increase efficiency.

It’s an exciting prospect: Applying these internet-enabled, data-driven devices to the industrial space provides industry leaders with the ability to automate and improve operations in ways we could have never before imagined. And many organizations are already reaping the rewards of this technology. In fact, GE predicts that investments in IIoT will top $60 trillion over the next 15 years.

Before you invest in the latest technology, though, you must consider the impact to your workforce and supply chain. After all, to truly harness the potential of IIoT, you must foster a culture that encourages “hand-in-metal” collaboration between humans and machines.

Train Your Workforce to Work Hand-in-Metal

It’s vital that your workers appreciate the benefits of IIoT and value the fact that this technology has the power to make your workplace more productive, engaging and satisfying. For those at the helm of the organization, it’s your duty to create a workplace environment in which your team feels empowered and encouraged to use real-time data to make decisions that will improve efficiency. Doing so will boost your bottom line and reduce the need for reactionary, top-down decision-making.

No longer burdened with moving materials from one point to another, floor operators will be able to devote their time and energy to other, more valuable tasks. Meanwhile, employees on the front line will be able to review data reporting on their inventory levels, production levels, scrap output and throughput to gain real-time insight into their productivity.

With new opportunities come new challenges, however. As IndustryWeek reports, this shift to smart manufacturing is only widening the skills gap. After all, many current employees were trained to work in a different time. Here, the impetus is on you to help them. Seek out workers who have an affinity for digital technologies and data analytics, and provide existing team members with training initiatives focused on using new technology to deliver the best results.

Increase Your Visibility

By leveraging business-oriented devices and machines in your manufacturing process, you will be able to obtain a more detailed view of your supply chain — and your organization as a whole. With this added visibility comes new opportunities for optimization. When combined with a comprehensive growth strategy, smart data analytics and automated systems enable you to improve efficiencies and reduce human error.

As you’re seeking out new partners, it’s critical you convey the importance of IIoT technology. Doing so will allow you to create a collaborative supply chain ecosystem in which like-minded partners share real-time information — unlike traditional, reactionary supply chain processes.

Case in point: Imagine that a small carpet manufacturer in North Georgia receives its materials from the port of Savannah. These materials are loaded on a truck to be sent to their final destination in Dalton. By leveraging IIoT, the carpet manufacturer gains real-time insight into the location of the materials as well as the estimated delivery dates based on weather, traffic and other relevant factors. This level of enhanced visibility enables the manufacturer to cut inventory costs, free up cash flow and provide better customer service. Meanwhile, supply partners would benefit through more accurate demand forecasting.

From material sourcing to end user access, IIoT is a valuable tool for the entire manufacturing value chain. Are you embracing this important industry shift? Reach out to an advisor to learn more.

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