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Explore the smart, adaptable and human side of manufacturing

Today, health and mobility concerns are echoing across the globe. As people’s lives are impacted, so is the future of business, making it more important than ever for manufacturers to consider new strategies for adaptability and sustainability.

Smart factories have been discussed extensively in the IoT world. A recent survey of U.S. manufacturers found that 86% reported that smart factories will be the main driver of competitiveness in five years, according to Deloitte Digital. But it goes far beyond investing millions of dollars in new technology across a vast field of use cases. So, how are leading manufacturers actually succeeding in their efforts to make an impact?

A successful impact requires effort and cooperation

Smart factories are adaptable and sustainable, employing a system of self-optimizing performance and immediate feedback that can run on its own and improve itself from end-toend. But smart factory transformation is more about culture change, and it is only as successful as the teams and people who embrace it.

To really compete, you have to disrupt. That means not only the market, but inside your organization. But not everyone is successful. Nearly two out of three manufacturers surveyed report no progress on initiatives that they overwhelmingly point to as their main driver of near-term competitiveness in five years, according to Deloitte Digital. That’s a surprising number of organizations leaving substantial and demonstrated value on the table.

However, it may have something to do with an over-emphasis on new technology rather than having a necessary focus on human-centered design and experience. Though connectivity and devices are important, empowering manufacturing workers, bridging the IT/OT divide, focusing on the needs of the end user, building diverse teams and supporting them with ongoing learning continue to be essential to long-term smart factory success.

Furthermore, having change champions inside organizations to support transformation at a leadership level can help remove roadblocks and gain organizational buy-in.

To help illustrate this concept, my organization created Dub Dub the Daring Disrupter Duck. Blurring the lines between the physical and digital, we’ve found that augmented reality (AR) solutions can be a valuable tool not only for human experience, such as workforce training and remote equipment maintenance, but in helping manufacturing organizations visualize the impact of new technologies.

One smart rubber ducky, Dub Dub, is helping us bring smart factory culture change to life through a life-size AR experience we call the Virtual Factory, without ever having to step foot on a manufacturing floor; something especially valuable given today’s environment of social distancing.

Our team created Dub Dub, her adventure comic book and a Virtual Factory app to help manufacturers understand the use cases and benefits of a smart factory ecosystem. This example illustrates how other organizations can use AR technologies to explore how smart factory solutions are transforming manufacturing processes to solve common manufacturing challenges and make production more productive.

These digital tours can also help manufacturers understand how they can achieve the most ROI out of smart factory solutions by supporting and solving real user needs. Employees can gain an understanding of each individual context users encounter every day through interactive, three-dimensional use cases.

It’s a lot of moving parts and disruptive ideas, but you’ll see how predictive maintenance systems, digital worker solutions, automated quality inspection, and a command center that provides plant managers with end-to-end visibility and insight can help transform operations.

And these connected systems are just the beginning. By shifting the transformation paradigm from technology implementation to human-centered design and management change, smart factory solutions can not only increase performance but help break down previously siloed teams and data, increasing worker safety and skill diversity while putting humans at the center of factory operations. Because we all want to work smarter, not harder, don’t we?

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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