Visualizing the Real Value of Digital Transformation for Manufacturers!

Feb 3, 2023 11:27:00 AM . Julia Walsh

How do frontline-workforce digitization and integration with the overall digital infrastructure help manufacturers get more value from their transformation?  

One of the things that each and every manufacturer, whether a single-plant production setup or a global network, has realized by the end of 2022, is that digital transformation can deliver immense value if done right. Companies that complete this transformative exercise become more competitive and experience massive internal efficiency gains across their value chains. They are saving more, producing more, and inventing faster than their peers, and the value they generate will only be amplified as their transformations mature and become more ubiquitous across their worldwide manufacturing locations.

According to McKinsey, the benefits of Industry 4.0 and digital transformation include 30 to 50% reductions in machine downtime, 10 to 30% increases in throughput,  and 85% more accurate forecasting. Refer to Figure 1, below

Figure 1- Source: McKinsey & Company

McKinsey also states that Industry 4.0 and digital transformation can improve labor productivity between 15 and 30%. As Figure 1 clearly explains, this productivity improvement can be attributed to an infusion of improved process technology and robotics coupled with AI and ML, which basically points toward the phenomenon of workforce intelligence.  

Before we take a deep dive into the concept of workforce intelligence and explore how frontline-workforce digitization plays an essential role, let’s take a moment to discuss how the overall value generated by digital transformation is tied to the workforce. More importantly, let’s discuss why neglecting to digitally empower the frontline workforce during a transformation effort can seriously hamper a company’s chances of becoming a digital leader.

Visualizing Digital Transformation Success: 

McKinsey points out that visualizing what a transformed operation looks like can help manufacturers better approach transformation across their sites. It is also recommended that manufacturers have an implementation strategy that looks beyond a pilot. Take a look at Figure 2 below to see what McKinsey considers important for a successful transformation effort.

Figure 2- Source: McKinsey & Company

The above graphic clarifies two points. One is the key role that software applications and platforms play in the digital transformation since everything from innovation to maintenance is driven by smart IT solutions. The other and most critical insight is that workers should be at the front and center of any transformation effort. Each and every topic touched upon by the graphic relates to how workers perform their tasks or how they use data generated from their processes for better decision-making. Even automation allows the workforce to concentrate on tasks that require cognitive effort and intelligence. 

The value generated through digital transformation clearly relies deeply on applications, solutions, and platforms. These empower the workforce, whether at the frontline or in offices, to perform better and improve existing processes while creating data-driven innovations. When it comes to the frontline, digital has massive potential to deliver value at an unprecedented scale. However, understanding how to get this right is something manufacturers continually struggle with.

A common mistake is to target specific use cases for platform or solution deployment. This has two drawbacks. One, the pilot takes longer to deliver value as most workers outside the pilot do not use the tool or solution deployed, and the ones that do use it have to make redundant efforts to align with the overall process imperatives. And two, even if a pilot targeting a few use cases delivers value quickly, replicating the success across other plants is a challenge given localized factors in the incumbent culture and the existing IT infrastructure. 

Integration requirements are another area of concern when implementing any frontline-workforce solution. These requirements can go beyond API-based integration with other enterprise applications (which, by the way, are an absolute must). The frontline-workforce solution also needs to account for AR connectivity, IIoT connectivity, and AI/ML-based tools that have already been deployed. Without a properly drawn-out integration strategy that considers both vertical and horizontal integration requirements across the board, chances of achieving the kind of numbers portrayed in Figure 1 are very slim. 

Webalo Insights:

The Webalo Platform is compatible with the most common open-standard APIs for two-way integrations with other systems. The necessary integration points for fully integrated platforms include health-monitoring systems for worker well-being, live messaging and communication, optimized machine-learning algorithms, wearable devices, voice-recognition systems and, finally, industrial metaverse.

Webalo represents what a complete frontline-workforce platform integration should look like. Unless this kind of integration exists, chances are that the workforce is only delivering partial value through siloed engagement, and this is nothing short of detrimental to the overall value gained through digital transformation.

Experts from the Webalo implementation team ensure that when the frontline-workforce platform is deployed it considers both horizontal and vertical integration requirements. True worker empowerment happens when there is a solution that workers can use for AR, VR, and IoT applications while creating their own apps to review and access their performance in contrast with their deliverables. The ability to control wearables and command automated equipment from the same platform is what really spurs improvements and innovation.

Manufacturers often consider the frontline workforce to be the last frontier of digitization, and this mindset needs to change. McKinsey’s value proposition indicates that the real value of transformation lies in the digital transformation of the frontline and the creation of what we refer to as a Workforce Intelligence Center. Webalo recommends deployment across the board and the creation of a “Lighthouse Unit” that experiences the full breadth of platform capability and brings the whole frontline and their management onto a single platform. Next, the data generated should be used to create intelligence through the application’s AI, ML, and visualization tools. As a result, workers will be able to make faster decisions, preempt breakdowns, and collaborate to generate more value. When the operation improves and lead times are reduced, data from the shop floor can spur innovation.

This is why we believe that digital transformation is tied to frontline-workforce integration. This overall strategy and the deployment of platforms like Webalo are a must for digital-transformation success!