What Is a Connected Worker Platform?

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Estimated read time: 5 minutes

These days, everything is connected. Your fridge is connected to your home’s wireless network. Your phone is connected to your car. You’re connected with a bunch of people on social media even though you haven’t talked to them since middle school.

Isn’t it about time that manufacturing workers were connected, too?

Well, lucky for you, that dream has become a reality. Thanks to technology like connected worker platforms, your entire manufacturing workforce can stay in touch with one another in real-time. Better yet, you can expect all kinds of benefits from this connectedness, including increased visibility, boosted productivity and improved worker safety. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the connected worker solution: what it means, why it matters to manufacturers and how to leverage a connected worker platform.

What is a connected worker, anyway?

Unlike your Wi-Fi fridge, connected workers don’t come with a manual. They’re still human beings, which means they bring all the varying skills, experience and manufacturing backgrounds as any other employee. The difference is that technology is being used to amplify their strengths and help overcome their weaknesses.

So what is a connected worker? Deloitte defines the term broadly: “A connected worker is any person whose working life is changing due to digital and other technologies.” For manufacturers, that refers to tech tools like wearable devices, connected worker platforms, augmented reality and more. When your frontline workforce is united by this type of technology, they can interact with user-generated reports, training material, machine documentation, real-time data and other key metrics — all without halting their task.

Hold on — isn’t this just digital transformation in a different package?

Nope. 

Think of digital transformation as the metamorphosis — for any of you who were asleep during biology class, that’s what happens when caterpillars go into cocoons — and connected workers as the resulting butterflies. Simply put, digital transformation is the process of choosing and implementing connected technologies that turn your regular workforce into, you guessed it, a connected workforce.

So is the connected worker approach part of Industry 4.0?

Now you’re getting closer. Manufacturing 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, smart manufacturing — these are all names for a modernized, digitized approach to manufacturing. Connected workers are just one part of the much larger Manufacturing 4.0 package.

Benefits of a connected worker approach

Connected workers are a pretty big deal. It’s safe to say they might even represent the future of the entire manufacturing industry.

That’s because a connected worker comes with all kinds of benefits for your workforce, your company and your manufacturing process overall. Some of those perks include:

Higher-quality data

You probably know that data is the currency of modern manufacturing. But what if there was a way to get even better data from people and machines? A connected worker initiative makes this possible by empowering your workforce to capture or enter data in real-time — which means no more walking across the plant to manually enter now-outdated info in a spreadsheet. Human error is reduced, visibility is increased, and operational excellence becomes the name of the game.

Simpler data collection

You don’t just get higher-quality data from connected workers; you also make it easier for them to capture that data. It’s all thanks to tools like connected worker platforms, which enable users to better utilize their favorite smart device — like smartphones, tablets or wearable tech — to record information without interrupting the task. This data is automatically uploaded to your platform and immediately visible to everyone else who needs it.

Improved worker safety

Say a new, non-connected worker is struggling with a task. To avoid a drop in productivity, they might just try to do their best and risk dangerous mistakes. A connected worker, on the other hand, could quickly and easily access work instruction documentation, training materials, best practices submitted by coworkers and more. The result is improved worker safety with a side of better productivity, and that’s a win-win.

Better communication

Social media contacts from middle school notwithstanding, connectedness is about communication. When workers can share insights, delays, and problems at the tap of a finger, the entire plant stays on the same page — and, better yet, your people can put their heads together to solve problems without having to be in the same physical space. For example, workers might use an app to share photos of safety problems in the plant, helping solve problems and protect one another. They might also have shared chats dedicated to specific machines so they can keep track of how each machine is performing on a given day.

Better employee engagement

When a worker is connected, they have the data they need at the moment they need it. With access to software that’s as easy to use as their favorite smartphone apps, they’re empowered with information to solve problems — and that makes their jobs easier and more fulfilling. Plus, when your workforce feels they can live up to their potential and play to their strengths, retention rates improve (which, in turn, boosts productivity). 

Easier hiring

Wondering about the cure for the so-called “Great Resignation”? A connected worker platform might be just what you need. As it turns out, a little well-placed digital transformation goes a long way toward making your workplace more attractive to job seekers — especially younger candidates who expect technology at their fingertips. Connected worker solutions also give managers a real-time view of worker skills, helping them identify gaps and prioritize filling those roles.

Boosted efficiency

At the end of the day, one of the greatest benefits of having connected workers is productivity. People who know what to do and how to do it don’t have to worry about extra steps or wasted time; instead, they get things done — and that’s good news for them, their coworkers, your company and even your end customers.

The power of connected worker platforms

Okay, so connected worker technology is clearly the way to go if you’re looking for operational excellence, worker safety, improved productivity and similarly incredible things. But how do you get started? How do you begin your digital transformation project — the manufacturing metamorphosis that turns your caterpillar workforce into butterflies?

That’s where connected worker platforms come in.

A connected worker platform is the foundation for this modernization approach. It’s what enables workers to be connected in the first place. Remember all that high-quality, user-generated data? It all lives in your connected worker platform. So do your training materials, asset documentation, best practices, production order information, maintenance schedules, spare parts orders and other vital information. Long story short, a platform empowers your workforce to interact with their environment in better, smarter, more efficient ways.

What should a connected worker platform look like?

An ideal platform should provide key capabilities in a single streamlined interface. Here are just a few features to look for:

  • Sharing sideways: When connected workers identify a better way of doing things, they don’t keep that information to themselves. They spread their wisdom across the plant to help turn their good idea into a new standard — a process sometimes called yokoten or “sharing sideways.” If your connected worker platform doesn’t allow you to share sideways, it’s not a connected worker platform at all.
  • Smart data capture: Remember, data isn’t worth anything if it’s outdated or incorrect. That means connected worker platforms need to empower your workforce with smart data capture solutions, giving them the tools they need to record information quickly and accurately. The platform should work with mobile and wearable devices, update records in real-time, display data in the same interface for a single view of the truth and generally simplify data management tasks.
  • New solutions: If manufacturers have learned anything about digital transformation, it’s that this process doesn’t necessarily end. You’ll always find new solutions, and your connected worker platform should be ready to adapt and integrate. That way, your workforce can benefit even more without having to learn a new platform or process every time you update your tech.

 

How do you choose a connected worker platform?

When choosing a platform, keep in mind that you’re not just connecting factory workers to other teams and to one another. You’re also connecting them to mobile devices, machines, historical data, maintenance requests and more. The ideal platform for connected workers is one that bridges the gap between man and machine. (Hint: That means the platform should help you choose the right technology for the right needs, providing the visibility you need to make informed decisions and connect your workforce effectively.)

Is that all a connected worker platform can do?

We’re calling it a “connected worker platform,” but that’s just one name for this technology. It’s really a major advancement in manufacturing software technology — a platform that helps you handle maintenance management, utilize predictive analytics, become a better manufacturing leader and more. 

Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not — and if you want to see for yourself, check out our blog! You’ll find plenty of examples of manufacturing platforms at work, not to mention a few case studies to prove that we’re not just making this up.

Connected worker technology for manufacturers

Why should your fridge, phone and car have all the fun? Your workforce deserves to be connected, too — especially if you’re looking for improved productivity, visibility, worker safety and more. If you want to get your hands on these benefits, you need the right connected worker technology.

At L2L, we bring people and machines together in ways that just make sense. It’s all possible thanks to our connected worker platform. Get started today by exploring our Smart Manufacturing maturity self-assessment tool, then jump in with both feet by booking a demo today!

 

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Kevin Bryan

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