As the fastest-growing generation in the workforce, millennials will be crucial in helping fill the manufacturing talent gap. Yet while they’re highly educated and offer great potential, they also expect their employers to leverage technology to its full potential to eliminate unnecessary tasks and maximize their productivity.
Walking a plant floor to inspect every piece of equipment may have been the norm a decade ago, but it’s an outdated and inefficient idea to a millennial who knows that that can be done with sensors, software solutions and a mobile device.
A survey of millennial workers by Deloitte found more than three-fourths said they want to have more mobile connectivity in the workplace. Seven-five percent of millennial respondents also said they would like the option to work from home or other locations with half saying it would result in greater productivity.
While manufacturing isn’t quite an industry that lends itself to remote work, IoT and automation is bringing more mobility to some manufacturing jobs. Innovative manufacturers are now using mobile for things like inventory management, controlling shop devices and equipment maintenance. These solutions can benefit managers, supervisors, technicians and even some front-line workers.
“Investments in mobile systems not only can offer a “wow” factor for millennial candidates, but also can greatly enhance productivity.”
Investments in mobile systems not only can offer a “wow” factor for millennial candidates, but also can greatly enhance productivity. “Streamlining workflows, gaining real-time visibility into equipment status, and analyzing tens, these workers will benefit, not from mobility in and of itself, but rather from the greater access to information that this technology can provide,” said VDC.
The technology is here, but many manufacturers still fall short and lag behind. A report by VDC research found that only 36% of manufacturers actively use mobility solutions to support business initiatives. While prices for both hardware and software are falling, many manufacturers are still constrained by data silos and haven’t yet invested in the wireless infrastructure and back-end systems.
One of the easiest places to start is to use mobile technologies to remotely measure inaccessible items on the shop floor or to enable communications between workers, machines and back office databases. For some equipment, simple sensors and cloud-based SaaS solutions can put information and control in a worker’s hands through a mobile device.
Scott Berg, chief operating officer of ServiceMax, said that with large immovable machines across territories, mobile enablement also can enhance productivity for technicians. He said today’s mobile solutions can alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty that many technicians face and empower them by having the information they need at their fingertips. “For these workers that don’t use a desk as a home base, mobile-device access to conduct business will change their work drastically,” Berg said.
Manufacturers also will find that deploying even the simplest mobile solutions often can bring new actionable data that can be used across the organization. VDC found that manufacturers often can attain a quick ROI through many mobility initiatives and that 45% of respondents said they plan to support tablet or smartphone-based applications for workers in the coming years.
“By providing key performance indicators and analytics, relating to machinery and human performance, mobility will prove instrumental in allowing manufacturers to compete in the next age of manufacturing,” VDC said.