In manufacturing, the frontline is responsible for executing tasks and following clear guidelines and SOPs.
While doing so, they use their experience and judgement to ensure results are compliant with intended specifications and work instructions. Manufacturing operations evolve to incorporate more digital tech equipment like IIoT sensors, automation, and robotics. As it becomes more normalized to use advanced IT tools to extract manufacturing data, the frontline and the decisions they make on a day-to-day and minute-to-minute basis will play a key role in ensuring that optimal results are obtained from digital transformation and automation efforts.
Why Does Frontline Decision-Making Matter?
This Business Wire post uses research analysis to explain that 90% of organizations believe success depends on decisions made by frontline employees. The research covered sixteen industry sectors across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, and found that improved communication, collaboration, and self-service analytics technologies can truly empower the frontline to make better decisions. However, 86% of respondents to the research stated that their frontlines need improved technology and insights in order to make better decisions.
Data-driven decision-making was found to be the most desirable attribute a frontline could possess, with 92% of respondents saying that it would improve long-term quality of work and productivity and 73% saying that it would cause short-term improvements as well. The report further stated that only 20% of surveyed organizations were providing their frontlines with the digital tools necessary for effective decision-making, and manufacturing organizations were found to be the worst at providing their frontlines with these tools.
Based on data collected on their performance, leaders included in the report have seen increased revenues ranging from 10 to 30% and beyond. These increases were achieved by creating intelligent, digitally equipped workforces capable of making better on-the-job decisions. Respondents who have started down the digital frontline journey are already reaping the benefits, with 72% saying that empowering frontline workers has increased productivity, 69% saying they have increased both customer and employee engagement, and 67% saying they have increased the quality of their products and services.
The numbers speak for themselves. It is clear that when the frontline is equipped to make well-informed decisions, the organization tends to gain, and the gains are extremely high. So, what is stopping companies from empowering their frontlines to make more data-driven decisions?
Obstacles to Improving Frontline Decision-Making and How to Alleviate Them:
A lack of effective change management is seen as the biggest obstacle to achieving better frontline decision-making, with 44% of respondents stating so. A lack of requisite skills to use available technology is seen as another major obstacle, with 31% of the votes. Managers and supervisors are seen as essential to the process of equipping workers with the right tools, from the selection of the right technology to training to setting up functionalities and rolling out the solution. However, a majority of respondents (51%) believe that their managers are not equipped to handle these essential tasks.
Senior leadership plays an essential and pivotal role in removing the obstacles that lie in the path of better frontline decision-making, according to 43% of respondents. Companies leading the frontline transformation are doing so by making data-driven culture a critical facet of their corporate strategy. Leading organizations are investing in digital tools that equip workers with the ability to better collaborate and analyze data. Investing in training that helps workers familiarize themselves with digital tools is also seen as an essential deliverable for improved frontline decision-making.
Manufacturing organizations tend to have a knowledge gap when it comes to IT infrastructure and digital strategy. While most manufacturers are well equipped with enterprise applications like ERP, CRM, or SCM, and some even have a custom MES for process execution, their frontline workers still do not have tools that digitize their activities and tasks. Even in complex, highly automated manufacturing plants, data from the shop floor goes missing and into silos. This is because of a lack of integration between individual IT applications and also because data is often recorded on paper or on stand-alone spreadsheets. Workers tend to be left out where digitization is concerned, as do work instructions and SOPs. This is the reason why manufacturing companies are lagging behind in data-driven enterprise optimization!
How Can Webalo Help?
Webalo is a connected worker platform that digitizes frontline workforce tasks and activities and helps create the foundation for data-driven, optimized enterprises. In the Business Wire post, three factors were found to be essential to improving frontline decision-making: communication, collaboration, and self-service analytics. Webalo delivers on all three.
Figure 1: Source- Webalo Inc.
As a platform, Webalo covers the entire spectrum of functional areas across a manufacturing operation. It allows tasks to be digitized and data collection to be automated, or at the very least made convenient, through its fully mobile interface. The platform delivers on communication, connecting the entire frontline with managerial staff,, which allows for effective and real-time exchange of ideas, instructions, and decisions.
Furthermore, since the entire workforce can use this one common and overarching platform, collaboration improves. Since the platform is device agnostic, it works on virtually any mobile device, thereby augmenting collaboration with mobility and speed. Since data collected by the frontline is primarily entered on the platform-based apps themselves (which, by the way, are fully configurable), workers can choose the metrics that help them make better decisions and set up alerts for OOS or other quality events.
Through this one platform, the creation of a Workforce Intelligence Center is possible. Workers configure their own applications, data is collected for all relevant transactions, collected data can be analyzed through the platform itself, and the intelligence generated can be communicated through the layers of an organization and beyond. This allows for collaborative decision-making and real-time action.
Workers find Webalo extremely user-friendly, as it works as a mobile app, which they are already familiar with. All workers, irrespective of their age or experience, have mobile apps and use them on a daily basis. Webalo can be used for work and enterprise optimization, but it can also be a great tool for training and retaining a workforce, something most manufacturers are struggling with currently. With Webalo, data-driven decision-making becomes a reality for the frontline.
Manufacturing leaders need to take the leap where frontline digitization is concerned because they are currently lagging far behind the service sector. In order to make this leap, they need to accept digitization and understand its potential when applied to the frontline workforce. Workers are a manufacturing company’s biggest assets and handle the bulk of value-adding transactions. Webalo can be the platform that elevates your operation and your enterprise to an optimized level. All you need to do is ACT NOW!