The Connected Worker Movement: Technologies for the Connected Frontline Workforce
In the final part of this 3-part series, we’re joined by fan-favorite Jaime Urquidi, Global Head of Customer Solutions at Parsable, for a deep dive into the world of frontline worker technologies and the connected worker, as well as an exploration of the challenges that come with connecting workers with new technology.
Jaime and Josh examine the most common categories of solutions available for solving a slew of problems experienced on and by the frontline. The two discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each option and explore the journey manufacturers can expect to go on when connecting their workers (no matter how they choose to do so).
Join as we discuss:
- A recap of episode 2 with a review of the most commonly used siloed solutions
- The most popular types of frontline worker technologies for overcoming inefficiency
- What you will experience in your pursuit of connecting your frontline workers
Experiencing disruption on the frontline? We can help. Request a demo today.
Check out the episode transcript below:
Josh: Jaime welcome back to the show and welcome to part three of our series on Connected Worker. Thanks for being here once again.
Jaime: Thank you very much, Josh. It’s another day just trying to change the world. I’m very happy to be with you and then just continue the conversation as we left it off, in a suspense mode on, “Hey, what’s next?” I’m very happy to just keep it going and continue talking about these super interesting things.
Josh: That’s right. It’s the cliffhanger. It’s the turning point and then we’re going to have the resolution coming up next. What a great segue into the intro. Just to recap, on episode one, we examined how inherent inefficiencies are impacting frontline workflows and processes and the cost incurred by manufacturers experiencing these areas of waste. On episode two, we dug in deep into the drivers of these inefficiencies, the over-reliance on siloed solutions, and how that leads to the digital isolation of workers on the frontlines.
I’d love for us to start out with a quick recap of those siloed solutions. Jaime, I think you’re the perfect person to start this conversation off, what were those siloed solutions, and tell us just a brief overview about them?
Jaime: I mean, the first one that comes to my mind, and we’ve talked about this story, is paper-based processes, right? Paper-based solutions, I always say data dies on paper, and I think it’s starting to become a buzz so that’s good, I’m happy for that. It’s just all the things that you have to do around to make paperwork. I think it’s something that to rethink with the available technology that we have right now.
Another one is tribal knowledge which we also touched on the previous episodes that everybody has this person that is the super expert, but you’re always looking to have their cell phone and have them accessible. Tribal knowledge. How can organizations make all the know-how and all the knowledge that has been accrued through years and Congress or thousands of people working on a process how can we make it available and consumable for everybody?
The other one is legacy systems or systems that are not really connected, right? A lot of things and in my experience, a lot of times, legacy systems are designed to solve for something. Then your organization needs to adapt to the way that they will decide which there’s nothing wrong on that change management and being systemic. On the other hand, you lose a lot of the down-to-earth and applicability of the real things that happen on the floor, and what is expected to be happening on these other systems.
That’s something that also if you can find the technology that has that flexibility, and that adaptability that can help you better reflect what is happening between all that interaction that really happens on the floor, which is more dynamic than those snapshots that you can get from the systems, then it would be more rich and really more helpful so you can just gain those insights, understand your issues, and really improve.
Another one that also comes to my mind and that we talked about are back office software. I mean, they’re amazing tools and they’ve really transformed the way that work is being done. They were also designed for other ways of doing things, for back office, for people that have a computer that have access to that, that have probably a different profile of the people that are really working on the shop run and really dealing with this routines, tasks, and processes. Which you also again, need to adapt them, and then in order to make them work, you need to change a lot of things around them.
They can be limited, or they can just solve part of the problem and then you still have to invest a lot of energy, a lot of thoughts, and a lot of effort in order to make them work. They work, you can make all these things happen. I think that with newer technology and the technology that is available today, together with the hardware that comes from smart devices, and what we have today, with the different solutions that are available in the market, I think that you can make those two ends meet and then just take that to the next level, which we’re going to touch on a little bit further on the conversation.
Josh: Absolutely. I think that was a spot-on recap, and some of the things I want to emphasize about what you said is that siloed experience of each of these with paper-based processes, the information is siloed, to that piece of paper. If someone is logging information about the work that they’ve done onto that paper, you as a manager, or someone else in the organization, or even a system within the organization cannot get the benefit of that data point, cannot use it correctly, it is siloed to that piece of paper.
Tribal knowledge, that’s information that is siloed in the heads of the people who have been here, who have built up that experience over the years, like you said. How can that information become accessible and not siloed to the brains of the people that have been there. Legacy systems, very critical systems, we’re talking about things like ERP, CMMS, MES, QMS, et cetera, just the systems that are very focused on a particular aspect of the business, which was the point that you called out. The way that they are siloed is that they don’t do a good job of sharing information between one another and they’re not really designed to output certain key pieces of information that’s needed in order to make sure you are capturing the data that they need.
They’re not providing a lot of the information, the frontline in particular who’s responsible for capturing and generating the data that needs to go back to this system’s not doing a good job of sharing the information that’s needed to support that cause. Then with the back office software, this is an interesting concept, because these are the digital tools really that have been available to people.
The problem is that they’re not optimized for use away from the desk. Is it possible? Sure. Is it ideal? Not at all, when it’s not ideal, it’s not adopted. Really what that leads to is information being available in a digital format, but not really being consumable to the people that need to use it, once again, leading to that siloed experience. I thought that was a great recap. I’m excited to talk about the last point that you brought up, which is new and emerging technologies that are there to really make sure we can work together to end this siloed experience, end this isolating experience.
Now, if you look out in the marketplace, if you do a Google search, if you’re experiencing some of these issues, and you’re trying to solve for one or more of them, there’s going to be a handful of different solutions in the market that you find that we’re going to do well at solving aspects of the inefficiencies that we covered in episode one. Each of these solutions, each of these approaches will have strengths, and they will have weaknesses and that is what we’re going to spend some time together discussing.
We’re going to be talking about frontline worker technologies. These are technologies that our specifically emerging with a focus on how to enable frontline workers in some way, shape, or form, and tackle some of those inefficiencies that we covered before. Each of these has its own flavor of ending that siloed experience. We’re going to talk about what solutions do well, how, where they struggle, where the opportunities are, and more.
The frontline worker technologies that we’re going to be talking about today. Those include legacy system apps, those also include App Builder platforms, we’re going to be covering work execution solutions. We’re going to explore knowledge-base tools, we’re also going to discuss remote expert and the technology behind that. Then finally, we’ll spend some time talking about connected worker technologies as well.
Jaime: Real quick, Josh, and to that point, I mean, one thing that is very important to consider is that probably five years ago, you were thinking of either I choose one or another or another or another. I think that today, the real question that you need to ask yourself is how can you leverage the powers and the opportunities between all these different technologies, that can help you get to your objective. Also, we’re going to talk a little bit about that, at the end on how it needs to be connected to a strategy and a philosophy so you can make the real transformation.
Josh: Yes. That is a key call out that we’re going to spend some time talking about, it’s not enough to introduce new technologies. There’s a wide variety of considerations that have to come into play, and I’m excited to explore not just the technologies, but those aspects as well. Jaime, being our expert in the field of manufacturing, I would love for you to talk with us about these legacy system apps.
We just talked about legacy systems in general and how they lead to a siloed experience. Talk to us about what problems do these legacy system apps, solve for? What are they, what are they good at, and where do they struggle?
Jaime: As you said, if you look for solutions for your problems, you’ll find thousands and thousands of different options. The legacy system solutions, I think that they’re great because they have been developed by experts on the specific matter, and they go very deep on solving a specific issue, or a specific discipline, or a specific topic. Now, with that, they can give you a lot of insight on that part.
Now, what are the challenges that I see and we see with our customers also is that you’re solving for this specific topic, let’s say quality, let’s say safety, let’s say maintenance practices. The thing is that quality doesn’t happen in isolation. Safety doesn’t happen in isolation. Maintenance doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens within a context of more activities happening together and more areas coming together, right?
Two things. One of them is that you go very deep into that topic, but you might be losing some of the contexts that is around it, that is creating those issues that you’re trying to solve. Another one that I think is very important, is also that we have to think about the end user and how they’re interacting with these different solutions. We have customers that have gone to very– like a lot of different solutions, and then unconsciously, they’ve embedded, adding inefficiency in their operations, which is, “I need to have an app for quality, an app for safety, an app for logistics, an app for each of the different disciplines.”
Again, you’re unconsciously creating data efficiency that the reality that happens on the floor is how all these different disciplines interact together in order to create your product or make your product with the right safety, with the right quality, and with the right cost. Then you’re just doing it in isolation. Those things are the challenges that come to my mind from these solutions.
Josh: I think in particular, that last point is pretty important because conceptually, logically it makes sense why you would focus on very specific functions, a system for quality, a system for production, a system for maintenance, et cetera, so on and so forth. That makes sense, logically of how to best equip the professionals with the information they need, and keep it completely focused.
I think what you’re calling out is some of the gaps are– there’s people who then have to interact with multiple different systems and have to understand, “When I’m performing some preventative maintenance activities that I have to log, I need to log it in this system, and when I do my quality check, I need to log that into this system.” That leads to this really convoluted and complicated experience, and it’s all back to that idea of, “These legacy systems don’t do a great job of sharing information across different systems.”
What they would prefer to do is really have you stay within their own particular ecosystem. Really when you break it down these apps, a good example is, there are a ton of different apps for SAP, both by SAP as well as by other additional vendors. There are apps like Maximo Technician, which is their mobile app for IBM Maximo. They’re really focused on modernizing that experience of the legacy system and bringing an on-the-go solution for a desk-less workforce. That’s what they’re trying to do.
To your point, Jaime, they do a great job of being that extension, but the problems are the fact that, that then leads to an app-per-system experience. Any updates you need to make, have to be made within those systems of record, which are notoriously difficult, and expensive to update. On top of that, you are confined by the data points that those systems want to capture and missed opportunities for capturing more rich data, which is something that we’ve seen firsthand in particular.
I thought that was a great overview and I appreciate you sharing, Jaime. Talk to us now a little bit about the app builder platforms, what you see, what’s good, what’s not, et cetera?
Jaime: App builders have a very interesting superpower. You can do whatever you want with them. They’re great. You can really solve that specific topic that you have to solve for. You have a great power that you can embed into your organization.
Some of the other characteristics that they have is that you can effectively modernize and embed that digital know-how and that software into the specificity of your process, or the problem that you’re trying to solve. Now, with that superpower, also comes great responsibility. I refer to you, Josh as I know you’re a big comic fan. The thing is that I think that there’s a tradeoff, which is scalability.
You’re solving for that specifics, but it becomes so custom and so specific, that then you lose the applicability for other things. Then the reapplication, the speed to value, gets compromised. The other thing is that even when– these app builders have evolved tremendously, and they’re like very straightforward. You still need some technical expertise to make them work and especially, make them work together with other systems.
That’s another thing that you need to understand if you have that capability base and that know-how within all the levels of your organization, in order to solve all those problems in an effective way. Just summarizing, they’re amazing because they can really give you the part to solve anything and make it digital, but the trade-off is that you need to really think about how you’re going to scale them and how fast and how big you can go with them. The other one is, what is your knowledge base and your capability in bettering your organization, that can really leverage this at scale?
Josh: Yes, very good points. It is very appealing to build something that fits your unique issue, your unique environment. You’re not going to look out in the broader marketplace and find a perfect fit, and the closest thing you’ll get to perfectly solving that one particular issue that you might be having is to invest the time and energy, and resources into building that.
These app builder platforms, I think one of the most common ones we see is Power Apps by Microsoft. These are very powerful tools that are designed to tackle the problems of the time, the infrastructure, and the resources that are required to develop an app. You no longer have to worry about these really intensive pieces of building and maintaining an app. Now, where they’re really strong, is the fact that you can configure and build it without having to go through a procurement process.
That really leads to this idea of speed, proof of concept, and being able to prove an idea quickly. However, you called out an important point, which is, these apps have to be able to scale in order to have any sort of standardization or consistent experience. Not just across a single site, but across multiple sites. The difficulty with these solutions, even though they are billed as low-code, no-code solutions, they’re very technical, and some people have that technical expertise, but not all people, particularly those who have the expertise on how a process should be completed or what information needs to be captured when are going to have that technical skills and expertise.
Oftentimes these are championed by IT, and IT is the one responsible for liaising with the business to help develop that app, which then means that in order to make any changes, now you have to go through IT because of the technical resources required to do that. That inability to make updates right when it’s needed just puts a bottleneck in the process of updating information and distributing that information.
Jaime: Yes, Josh. You bring up a very interesting point, which is, “Now I created a solution, how do I maintain it? How do I keep it relevant? Then you build a dependency between the operation and the technical resources in this case, IT or you could be sitting somewhere else, but it creates that interdependency.
That you don’t have that freedom to really get those updates and those ever-changing processes as you’re embedding continuous improvement to capital at the same pace in a way.
Josh: Yes, it takes a lot of work to really support and maintain an app, even with app builder platforms. Next, we had on our list work execution tools. Jaime, I’d love for you to talk with us about what we mean when we’re referring to work execution tools and what you’ve seen and experienced.
Jaime: Yes, work execution, the way that we describe them. The way that we’ve been talking about them and with them is that the way to receive digital instructions. That tell you what to do. You can build in these different solutions. You can build OPLs. One-point lessons or you can build standard array procedures and that.
They have a lot of capabilities. They have easiness of use. They’re very, very, very, very nice solutions right there. Now. They’re great for putting the content in a digital manner and then for people to consume it. The challenge is that not all of them, and I would argue that just a few of them, could have the capability of really capturing the data on what’s supposed to happen compared to what actually happened, and then start getting that comparison.
Josh: Yes, what I’ve seen typically with work execution tools they’re very good about what are the tasks that need to get done. Did those tasks get done? Who needs to get those tasks done? Was that person the one that got that task done? What was the result of the task that was completed?
Which is powerful because that’s bringing visibility into work. It’s bringing a level that’s not available today. We talked about how information is siloed on paper this digital approach immediately eliminates that problem of information being siloed on paper, the struggle. Because I know you mentioned one point lessons.
The struggle that I’ve seen with work execution is that they’re so focused on what is the task that needs to be done, but they struggle in providing the, how that task should be done. You might be able to provide some basic descriptors but it’s not enough to really translate some of the nuance of knowledge that needs to be understood in order to safely and efficiently complete a particular task. Often these solutions are very much forms, very much like checklists. One of the things that you have to be on the lookout for is no process. No– Whether that’s a form, whether you’re performing an inspection, whether you’re taking some action with your standard work.
None of that in the scope of manufacturing happens in isolation with the regard to work. It all relates to a bigger workflow. That’s where some of these work execution tools fall short as well is, an inability to support these workflows. What needs to happen after this particular task is completed?
Whether that is another task or a completely separate process that needs to be initiated as the result of that task. Very helpful in overcoming a particular inefficiency, but struggles with providing some of the know-how, which is what we talked about in the previous episode. A big driver of inefficiency is a lack of knowledge. It actually takes us to our next solution, those knowledge-based solutions. Jaime, what’s your experience with knowledge-based tools?
Jaime: They are a great vehicle to capture that tribal knowledge that we’ve been talking about. It’s easy to capture best practices share them, compare them, and all that. Now what I haven’t seen that often is how they can, going back to the workflows that you were mentioning, how those instructions and that know-how that you’re capturing in this knowledge base. It becomes a database, but it’s not interactive. You can really compare what you capture to what is really happening and then leveraging data to just help you find those insights and drive continuous improvement.
Josh: Yes, it’s almost like the flip side of the coin, where work execution struggles, knowledge base really thrives because what it’s seeking to do, and to your point it’s how do you tackle the tribal knowledge? How do you capture that and make it available in a consumable format that other people can draw from, learn from on their own time et cetera? Where they really do well is sharing these types of best practices in easy to consume formats and easy-to-access formats.
A common example is being able to scan a QR code on a machine and being able to see all the different processes or procedures that are related to that particular machine or troubleshooting guides or whatever the case is. The difficulty. It’s back to that flip side of the experience of work execution tools. They do a great job of here’s how you safely and efficiently complete a task.
Then it’s just up in the air as to whether anyone takes action with that information. It’s very good at, if you want to review something, if you’re trying to upskill yourself but there’s a breakdown in, now take this information and go apply it, and apply it in such a way that we can track and compare with this education, with this information, with the access to these tools.
Here’s the improvement that we’re seeing to whatever KPI we’re trying to address, let’s say it’s a consistent quality issue because people aren’t really up to speed with the settings that they should be setting on the machine, et cetera. Being able to compare it like that, and that’s where that breakdown is because, at the end of the day, you want to be able to collect, and this is to your point, you want to be able to collect the data that’s going to help you make a data-backed best process. As opposed to opinion, gut feel experience, all valid indicators but the more that you can move to a data-backed conversation of when people tackle a task with this information and do it this way, here’s the result.
Compare that to doing it a different way, and now you have an opportunity to make a decision on how to optimize your process. With regard to training, you want to train on the process. The process has to come first in that case. Those are some of the opportunities on the knowledge base side is those difficulties tracking and managing tasks, and not really gathering the data that’s needed to drive process improvements or optimize a process.
Now, one of the things we haven’t covered yet but is another piece of the whole story is the idea of a remote expert solution. Jaime, when you have experienced remote expert tools, what are they, what do they do well? Where do they struggle?
Jaime: I think it’s a great solution for the problem that we talked about, “Hey, this expert that knows exactly how to solve this problem, and that how you make these people always available.” In large organizations or small organizations, there’s always different depths of understanding of how to fix something or how to do something, or how to go through a problem or how to go through a hurdle or whatever on this dynamic environment in manufacturing. Remote expert solutions are sweet.
Are a very good way to solve that gap. Then you can have that George in the boiler house or that Johnny that used to know the programming in the zeroing of the robot that I talked on the previous show. You can make them always available and you can help facilitate that two-way communication that helps you get out of trouble faster and more effectively. The strength is that via communication and the current capabilities you can really connect the problem with the people that have the know-how to solve for it.
Josh: That’s what they seek to overcome with these types of tools, it’s the fact that the information is tribal knowledge. It’s in the mind of an expert, so how can you, at the point of need, make sure someone has the ability to gain the benefit from the knowledge that’s in a person’s head, and so the format is that live guidance, the let me walk you through, let me partner with you and see what you’re seeing and then help you take the action that you need to take so that there’s no delays, there’s no waiting to find who can help, or waiting for them to come on shift, et cetera.
That is, I think, a very powerful idea and concept to tap into. I think there’s been some interesting ways in which remote expert solutions have started to evolve even jobs. I was actually just reading an article about how some shifts are becoming three days a week in the factory, two days a week serving as this expert that can be called upon in order to provide guidance. I think it’s interesting how it’s helping to change and evolve the workforce because it’s promoting that collaboration like you called out. Now, the difficulties there, remote expert solutions require constant internet connection.
Even there’s some solutions that do really well at poor internet connection, but the fact remains that you cannot work offline and leverage a remote expert solution. You just can’t. That immediately makes it a difficult solution to try and adopt for a lot of manufacturing environments. It’s usually isolated from the task or the assignment. What I mean by that is it’s difficult to correlate a recorded conversation and the information that’s shared within that conversation to the specific task or the instance of work that was happening.
Which drives back to the point that we raised with the knowledge-based solutions, you have to be able to tie the data of this information when applied at this time has this effect. Really, while it’s good at transferring information one-on-one, unless you are actively trying to record those video conversations and then do something with it, it’s really spreading tribal knowledge and not really tackling the root cause of tribal knowledge. Those are some of the things that come up with remote expert solutions.
Jaime: You know what, Josh? Something that will be very interesting to see, and I’m really interested in how this will evolve, is how combining the new AI capabilities like ChatGPT can really make this remote expert capturing of data and that guidance, how can it be leveraged? That’s something that might come in the future that I know from conversations that we’ve had with different partners and all that, that we’ve seen that it’s coming. That is going to be something that might be also painting another shape and form of this market. It’s just interesting to see how it’ll play out.
Josh: That’s a fair point because it would no longer be a need for a remote expert, it would be an artificial expert at that point. Then it would just be all around you. It wouldn’t be something that you have to connect to.
Jaime: I’m just starting to think about that Nirvana and how– the speed of evolution and technology, that’s something that I’m just eating my popcorn and waiting for that to see, and then see how we can participate on that.
Josh: That’s an interesting point because that would still be in this digital realm. There would need to be some sort of intuitive way of interacting with it. I’m a big fan of the– ve got an Amazon Alexa. The fact that I can tell it remind me at this time, I could tell it to lock my front door. I could tell that to tell me if I left my garage door open. There’s elements of that that already exist today. Imagine being able to just say, “Hey, I need some help,” and immediately there’s a response. Now, I don’t know the technology that’s going to have to come about to make that happen but I love that idea of this is where technology could take us with things like artificial intelligence, right?
Jaime: Yes, definitely.
Josh: Now, this all goes into this idea of connected worker, and that’s the next type of solution that we’re going to talk about. This is really what we’re talking about, this experience of being able to get the information that’s needed when it’s needed in the format that it can be consumed so that you can take action. All of these examples are centering around that. Jaime, talk to us about connected worker, what problems it solves, where it’s strong, where it struggle. What have you seen?
Jaime: Let me start with something. As you were talking and how we’re building the conversation that I think it’s interesting, is that these connected worker solutions have been created from the worker to the other systems. I think that is a very important factor that you need to understand and consider when you’re thinking about how to solve your problems. Because if you’re trying to solve for the executor of the task, then that’s why the legacy systems don’t fit, or the back office systems don’t fit, because they were designed with somebody else in mind.
One of the big things that I like about connected worker solutions is that they were designed and they are being defined, and they’ve been evolving based on the needs of that person and how they start connecting and interacting with other systems with their processes, with their materials, and all the context that is happening around their day-to-day work. I think that it’s something that really gives it a very specific capability that is super powerful when you’re trying to solve with that. They also enable that digital collaboration between people, systems, and machines that I already touched briefly.
It helps you contextualize everything that’s going on. Then that decision-making process or how the executor of the task gets presented information and gets influence on their decision-making process based on the situation or some of the contextual things and the workflows that are pre-designed for that. We’ve been talking about the tradeoff between workflows or having the best instructions. The tradeoff between being solving for one specific thing when you have to solve for all the different disciplines in charge. I think that connected worker solutions really help you put all those things together so that you can really ensure that people are doing their work in a safer, better, and more efficient way.
Now, connected worker solutions also require a very strategic vision so that you can really leverage how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to integrate, how you’re going to put the information together, how you’re going to govern it. The challenge as you’re going into a connected worker solution partner, you’re going to solve your problem from there, is that you really need to have a very clear vision on how you want to do it. Then also have a clear understanding on how you want these workers to interact with the other systems.
That brings me to my previous point on it used to be a big or, and now I see that it’s a big and on the systems that you might have, because see, it’s going to be impossible to tear out all your legacy systems. It’s going to be impossible to stop interacting with your backend office systems and all the other systems, but how you strategically think how all these things work together, and how could you really leverage and connect that real life experience to what is happening in all the different dimensions of that manufacturing world, it’s going to be key to make it successful.
Josh: I think those were really great call-outs really centering around the idea, and I’m summarizing and reading in-between some of the things you said, centering around this idea that there are a variety of different pieces of information that people need, and those previous or previous technologies that we were talking about, they all do well in some way, shape, or form of providing specific pieces of information in different ways, and really, this connected worker technology seeks to eliminate the barriers between all of those solutions. How can I, as a worker, get information from a legacy system?
How can I track and manage the tasks that have to be performed? How can I make sure that I know how to do that in the safest and most efficient way, and make sure that I’m up to compliance with the standards and any changes that have been made to my process or procedure? How can I get the benefit of working with and learning from other people who have been here? How can I do it in a way that ultimately reflects the way that I’m doing work in a way that’s configurable to it?
These connected worker technologies are really seeking to solve some of the gaps left by the other solutions and focus on that seamless transfer of information, even what I should say is that automated transfer of information between people and systems in there, like you called out, because of the breadth of this and what you can do it requires a strategic vision. This is going to be something that’s more tied to industry 4.0 digital transformation initiatives.
Now, you don’t have to have a full-blown digital strategy in order to get started, but to really get the maximum value from a connected worker initiative, it’s really going to be about how can each worker within my frontline operations, across my frontline operations, across all my sites, benefit from this experience of that automatic transfer of information between people and systems?
I think that was a great call-out. Just to recap those technologies that we just covered, legacy system apps, app builders, work execution solutions, knowledge-based solutions, remote expert tools, and connected worker technology. Now, there’s one other thing I think we should bring up, Jaime, about connected worker is that at the end of the day, even if you are not pursuing a connected worker tool, connected worker is as much of a philosophy as it is a software solution. Jaime, what are your thoughts on the connected worker philosophy?
Jaime: We talked about creating a learning organization so that you can really leverage the know-how of your operation, understand and really be able to improve, and how they do it in the east, like in Asian cultures, in Japanese. How all these continuous improvement philosophies are based on increasing the knowledge and the understanding of the systems processes and the things that happen in the shop floor.
Just bringing that together with your connected worker solution or your connected worker philosophy, then you can start creating a management system that embeds digital-first approaches to create that learning culture so that you can excel and then always be at your top performance. Then learn fast, fail fast, and then just embed that knowledge, and then continue improving as you grow.
Two things. The one is the philosophy, but the other one that is very, very, very important and that can really determine success, is setting the right culture so that you can learn. Then as you’re learning these new technologies and how they work together, bring those new capabilities, those new superpowers to create that strategy of the future which needs to be live. More than ever, mankind has realized that you cannot have a static vision or a static strategy. The better way that you can create a culture that generates that understanding of what is working, what’s not working, and how can that affect or improve your strategy and your vision, I think that you will be faster to success.
Josh: There’s two things that I want to double down on there. Actually, I want to split them out because you talked about the philosophy of connected worker, and you also started talking about the impact of culture. I think that’s something that certainly warrants its own deep dive in conversation. With that connected worker philosophy, I completely agree with you, it’s about how do you put the people at the center because the people are the ones that are having to make decisions and take action. That’s ultimately what this is all about. How do you reduce or eliminate all the things that are getting in the way of being able to make a decision or take action?
You have to do that by enabling the people who are responsible for doing these things in a way that is ultimately beneficial to them. To do that, you have to put people at the center, and you have to open up those lines of information transfer. In some cases it’s going to be automatic, in some cases it’s going to be manual. It’s really about what are those things that you can plan for and let the systems start to automate so that people can focus more on just doing the work and bringing the value and the creativity that humans excel at, as opposed to all of these burdensome administrative activities that are required just to manage the business.
It’s a way of really providing some relief, but again, it’s about, how do I make sure that my people can get the information they need in the format that they can quickly and easily consume and comprehend so that they can make the best decisions and take the right action right when needed? To your point, Jaime, this ties into the idea of resiliency within an organization. A big topic of conversation right now is resiliency in manufacturing. That’s really defined by the ability to adapt and sustain those adaptations quickly. These breakdowns in sharing information are slowing that process down.
Again, connected worker is as much of a philosophy. Now, you brought up culture, and that’s such an important thing to call out because no tool is going to compensate for a poor culture. Tools can help you drive changes to certain elements of that to help fix pieces, to help bring it up to speed, but if your culture is one that’s not putting the focus and attention, and priority on the frontline workforce, you are going to reap what you sow essentially from that culture perspective. I love that you brought up culture.
Jaime: Josh, it’s not exclusive to connected worker or to anything. You see culture being the biggest factor of success or failure in anything that you put your organization up to. If it’s a new way of doing things or embedding a new innovation process or whatever, it just all is very– the success or failure of those initiatives are based on how you really embrace that culture of getting things done.
Josh: This is going to be very important for the longevity of companies. To remain competitive in the industry, you’re going to have to identify what are those technical solutions that are going to enable us to make changes to our process, or optimize, or see gains and efficiencies so that you can keep costs manageable, so that you can deliver a product a little bit faster, or take it to market faster, or open up new opportunities to get revenue just in general. These things are going to make an impact within the market. As manufacturing professionals, you’ll need to overcome these inefficiencies that we talked about in the previous episode.
You and I have seen this play out plenty of times that there’s a typical path, a typical experience that manufacturers go through when seeking to move from this place of digital isolation closer to true operational excellence with that focus on the frontline. Most start in this isolated experience that we talked about in the previous episode. The first step is going digital. Like we talked about throughout, it’s not just about moving from paper to a digital format.
It’s about making sure that it’s a true move to digital in which that format can be accessible and used by people wherever they’re going. We’re talking about the ability to use mobile devices, and we’re talking about the ability to make the work that’s happening analyzable, meaning data has to be generated, and that data has to ultimately lead to some sort of insight. I bring up mobile because– Jaime, what’s a typical response that you see when you start talking about bringing mobile devices to the factory floor?
Jaime: There’s always two concerns. The first one, and I think the one that we get the most, is the safety of using mobile devices on the floor. A we don’t allow mobile device on the shop floor. Again, it needs to connect to the strategy, it needs to connect to the culture, and it needs to connect with, why– just going and understanding the real reason on why you do not want cell phones on the floor, or devices on the floor.
Then you need to question in your organization, if you’re really, really ready to embed a culture that you can trust, that you can create an environment which is safe to work under these new conditions. The other one that we get is like, oh, the cost, which nowadays also, we’ve got devices that are not that expensive that you can really start putting on them on the floor and then that, but again, it also goes back to how you are connecting your operational strategy and your culture into welcoming this new era.
Josh: I’ve had so many conversations with manufacturers who say, look, I want to do this, but we have a policy in place that no devices are allowed on the factory floor. They typically come from, to the points that you raised up, a concern around safety and a concern around efficiency due to distractions of devices. It’s important to really examine both of those because really when you look at the value that can be obtained by providing people with this ability to get the information they need when they need it in that consumable format, the the value plays dividends, and you’ll see that safety isn’t compromised in that process, and efficiency gains are frequently made.
Now, one of the call-outs about digital formats is you have to provide a way for people to authenticate securely within the digital world. Cybersecurity is top of mind, and if you want to be able to truly enable people to interact with this digital ecosystem that’s emerging within manufacturing, they have to be able to have that own representation. Really that can be as simple or easy as an email, for example, but we’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is even to get emails set up for people who would need to use this. Then finally, part of this basic approach is really examining your connectivity options.
Internet connectivity, investments in making sure that there is signal so that information can be triggered, that’s going to be important to the next phase, which is that connected workers phase. How do you connect workers? In what format do you connect workers? Et cetera. We talked a little bit about connected workers. Connected worker, I want to make this clear is not the end goal. It’s a means to an end. Connected worker is a philosophy that can help change the way that you think about how you enable your workforce, but it’s goal is ultimately operational excellence, particularly operational excellence in the era of industry 4.0 and digital transformation.
Because there’s other emerging technologies that when combined with connected worker really unlock transformational opportunities. Not only will this seamless data transfer open up opportunities for you to continuously iterate, to find out areas in which you can optimize a particular process, quickly implement that change and measure the result of that change, but being able to find out about issues in real time, and then either respond quickly or automate the response to that. That’s going to change the impact of these production issues that pop up.
Whether it’s someone reports a problem with the machine and instead of someone waiting to find out about it, the team is not only automatically notified, but information was sent to SAP, which validated that we’ve got these parts in store and it kicked off information to the workers themselves who need to take a look and take that action. It’s moving to that real-time immediate response, but then it also powers predictive approaches. As you explore predictive analytics or predictive maintenance programs, the data that’s generated by these digital tools, these become very invaluable data points that really reveal the variables that are impacting operational results.
When you take those variables and factor them into the other data that you’re collecting from machines and systems, then you’re able to take more accurate steps based off the predictions provided by these predictive approaches. Finally, when we start exploring ideas like you called out, Jaime, artificial intelligence and digital twin technology, and connected worker, that is where a truly a transformational experience happens. That is where you move from just standard work to optimized work. This is the exact task that must be performed.
The likelihood of the results that we’re trying to achieve are already known, and if whatever reason that action taken by this individual at this time doesn’t lead to those results, that data point gets fed back into the simulation that can then make the determination for next time of here’s how we optimize. It’s crazy where things are going. You brought up Spider Man earlier, with that reference of great power comes great responsibility, I like to think of this final destination there as Dr. Strange in Infinity War where he’s peering into all the millions of different realities, and he sets in motion the one plan that has the highest likelihood of success based on everything that he saw.
That is what that transformational connected worker experience is going to look like. It’s these systems coming together that have done the analysis based off all of the data that we’ve put together, and the way that those machine models have been trained in all these other factors coming into play to put into motion the exact thing that needs to happen when it needs to happen, see the result, and immediately make the changes so that you’re continuously optimizing. It’s crazy to think about. It’s crazy.
Jaime: Yes, it’s mind-blowing. Josh, I could hear your excitement as you were talking about these things and then just going, adding up on it and all that. Now, one thing that I want to double down on, which is very important from my perspective, is that you’re not digitizing just to digitize. You’re not connecting workers just to put connected workers. You’re not buying devices just to put devices on the floor.
It’s very important that you have a clear goal that– because all these different systems, processes, tools, management system, change management philosophies, and all that, they are built in order to help you achieve the most important thing, that is putting the best product out in the market with the best conditions. It’s all about how you leverage tools and ways of doing things in order to supply your market in a more efficient way, so that that way, you can really improve the lives of the people that are consuming your products, which is the mission of the companies that supply products into the market.
We influence the life of people that touch our products, as manufacturers, in different shapes of forms. You want to do it in the best way possible so that you can do it in a more efficient way and then your ESG goals can be met, which is super important. Also, making sure that you are doing the best for the people and for the market, and for the planet hat we’re living in. Now more than ever, just finding those efficiencies and really honing on the technology to make life better for the whole shareholders, and I didn’t say stakeholders on purpose, the shareholders that are influenced by your operation, I think it’s super important.
Josh: I think that was such a great way to round this out, which is focusing on the goal. It’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s not any of that. It’s focused on how do we deliver the highest quality product to the people that rely on our products day in and day out, and I love that you called that out. With that, that wraps our series on connected worker.
If you want to stay up to date and learn more about the connected worker movement, be sure to visit www.parsable.com, and follow Parsable on LinkedIn. Now, folks like Jaime and I share learnings like these through webinars, through events, through social media, and more so. Make sure to connect with us while you’re at in. With that, Jaime, thank you once again for making this a great and fantastic episode.
Jaime: Thank you very much, Josh. Hope to talk to you soon again in another episode that I’m sure we’ll find an interesting topic to share and to feel energized about it. Thank you so much, and thanks, everyone, for listening. I hope that it was relevant for you. As Josh said, contact us and then we can have deeper conversations on our views and the way that we see this technology and this market evolving, and that.
Josh: All right, that’s a wrap on our three-part series on connected worker. What’s becoming more and more clear is how this approach is evolving from a technology to a philosophy, and from a philosophy to a movement. Those who do the work now will be the leaders and will help shape the trajectory of the movement and usher in the new way of work across their frontline operations. While the laggards, well, they’re going to continue to struggle to figure out how to keep up. Now is the time to put your people first. Now, if you like what you heard today, subscribe to Conquering Chaos in your podcast player of choice.Take a listen to the only podcast miniseries dedicated to the who, what, where, when, and why of the connected frontline worker!