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Smart Manufacturing Helping shopfloor operators embrace digitalisation

Mar 26, 2018

Most shopfloor operators perceive digitalisation as a threat to their jobs. They lack the information on technology advances, and are, hence, not able to fully embrace digital technologies. The viewpoint section explores the strategies that can be undertaken by manufacturing enterprises in order to change the mindset of the current shopfloor operators so that they, too, can be a part of the digital revolution. Excerpts…

“Mindset change has always been the showstopper in adopting transformations” — Anindya S Bhattacharya, Lead–Manufacturing Excellence, India Business, Hitachi Consulting

The entire idea of digitisation is to empower the current workforce in making more informed decisions. Accurate data capturing (i.e. ‘one version of truth’), accurate analysis of the data, leveraging the analysis to pin point at correct root causes and also working more effectively is the core essence of digitisation. The current shopfloor systems and processes will have more advanced and near real-time closed loop control, which will definitely upgrade the current maturity index.

The current workforce can be tasked or upskilled to handle such transitions. There has to be a structured capability building plan to address this issue. They should, however, be given sufficient time to absorb the new change. Cultural change and mindset change has always been the showstopper in adopting transformations. We, at Hitachi, use the 5 Box framework. The Hitachi’s 5 Box Model® addresses the main drivers of behavioural change to deliver sustainable results across the organisation.

“Skill development of operators is an important aspect” — Brijesh Kumar Mishra, Head—Operations, Meenakshi Polymers

Digitalisation in the manufacturing industry is an important need today. Thus, embracing this change is key. This change will become successful only if the people involved have a positive mindset and the appropriate skill. If the operators and shopfloor workers are not convinced and do not have the ease in adopting the changes, then the change will not be successful.

Skill development of operators is an important aspect, which can be done through education and training. There must be a skill development team working in every organisation. They should keep on evaluating the skills of the operators with respect to their allocated jobs. Accordingly, training should be provided to them.

An organisation must also have friendly behaviour with their workers and not a dictatorship so that they don’t hesitate to share their doubts, fears and weaknesses. In fact, organisations should conduct events through which they can gather the true thoughts of their workers. After this, the organisations should conduct counseling programs through professional counselors, motivators and experts.

There must also be a strong skill development system. This should include training programs, which covers the real needs of trainees and it should be conducted according to the trainee’s suitable communication method, venue and schedule, etc.

“Strategy should be for maximising digitisation” — Shivaprasad Kamat, Director – Strategy, Sanjeev Group

Digitalisation will not lead to job losses. However, it is imperative for the current team to develop or sharpen their skills about handling IT systems and working more on data. As the method of working is changing rapidly, the entire team from the top floor to the shop floor should adapt to these changes quickly to stay relevant. The acceptance of this change by the top management is the first step of training the shop floor team towards digitalisation.

Having a data-driven approach towards work is the biggest change. In a connected manufacturing set-up, the system is bound to generate huge data. Training the shopfloor team to handle these systems to ensure their uninterrupted working and increasing their ability to process the data will add to their efficiency in a big way.

Digitalisation is a major disruption in the manufacturing sector. Quick adoption is the key to staying relevant and successful. It is also important to rule out the feeling of job insecurity from the team’s mind.

The strategy should be for maximising digitisation in order to increase quality and efficiency of the entire setup. This is a better objective for the entire team to align to. Reward scheme can also be implemented in order to encourage GAMBA and maximum participation from the entire team.

“Honesty & transparency will be the best strategy” — Shrikant Savangikar, Director, Business Excellence, Quality and Sustainability, SKF India

Shopfloor operators are well-informed about their environment, technology and its contribution in their life. This is evident from their participation in various process improvements, Kaizens and suggestion schemes across many companies, which have improved productivity and efficiency. This has been our experience at SKF for the last ten years. When there is a transparent and honest communication from management, they always support and cooperate with the changes sought by the organisation. Thus, if digitalisation is going to help the company to prosper and serve common good and if this is explained with readiness to accommodate their suggestions, the changes will be fully accepted.

Digitalisation will add jobs in sectors such as IT & and if we work simultaneously on developing these skills with our existing workforce and make them employable in the new environment, it will create confidence in the minds of the common man. There is no shortcut to participation & involvement and honesty & transparency will be the best strategy in the short & long term . The management should share the knowledge of modern technologies and treat them as partners, creating scenarios considering the future of every employee during the transition as well as final stage.

“Change will lead to a shift in employment” — Gaurav Awasthi, AGM, Head - Assembly Frame, Honda Cars India

With an increase in digitalisation and automation, there is a fear amongst operators of losing their jobs. However, this change will lead to a shift in employment rather than a reduction in employment. For example, there may be a reduction in headcount at an automobile OEM level due to increased digitalisation. This will be compensated for with an increase in employment by the digitalisation & automation solution providers.

Getting operators to embrace digitalisation is easier said than done. It needs a paradigm shift in the working culture & mindset of the shopfloor operators. The culture change is essentially a top-driven activity but cannot succeed if people are not taken onboard.

Changing this culture will take time. People change when they realise how it will benefit them. An environment needs to be created where people feel like they’re a part of the opportunity, have a sense of urgency and see that the digital mindset behaviours are rewarded in the organisation. The process can be further accelerated by identifying champions to drive the digital transformation and become the change ambassadors in the organisation that will inspire others to join.

Image Gallery

  • Anindya S Bhattacharya, Lead–Manufacturing Excellence, India Business, Hitachi Consulting

    Image: Hitachi Consulting

  • Brijesh Kumar Mishra, Head—Operations, Meenakshi Polymers

    Image: Meenakshi Polymers

  • Shivaprasad Kamat, Director – Strategy, Sanjeev Group

    Image: Sanjeev Group

  • Shrikant Savangikar, Director, Business Excellence, Quality and Sustainability, SKF India

    Image: SKF India

  • Gaurav Awasthi, AGM, Head - Assembly Frame, Honda Cars India

    Image: Honda Cars

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