The past year brought a significant paradigm shift to the way work happens across the world. Although technological solutions have been around to make it possible for some time, the necessity of keeping workers safe, product quality high, and operations streamlined during the pandemic led to the rise of the “connected worker.” You’ve likely heard of this phrase buzzing around, but what does it mean, and why are they the best option for your business? While the frontline has powered through work this past year, businesses are now able to start looking into viable solutions like Anvl that can connect their workers and implement technology that will drive improvements in worker safety, quality, and operations, and yield significant ROI for leadership.

What are Connected Workers?

The connected worker could be any worker who is using a variety of technological tools to get the job done better, faster and more safely. It’s a partnership between the worker and the technology. According to Deloitte, at least half of all workers they spoke with were eager to adopt new technology to help them in their jobs. Whether it’s tablets, smartphones or wearable tech, the main goal is getting workers the actionable data they need to do their jobs the best way possible. When workers can partner with tech in this way, they are safer, more efficient and more productive.

Why Do You Need Connected Workers?

Over the past year, companies learned a lot about moving toward digital transformation and connected workers because they had to.

  • Technology has been essential in keeping manufacturing operations on track and moving forward, even in the face of shutdowns and pandemic roadblocks. Companies that had already made strides toward getting workers connected to digital resources before the pandemic were more agile and adapted better to the rapidly changing situation over the past year, and were able to keep more workers safe while remaining in business.
  • Technology did not replace the value of skilled human workers—it accentuated it. Kearney reported that 72 percent of the value created in manufacturing still came from human workers’ creativity and ingenuity. Technological tools that connected and empowered those workers made their jobs safer and more efficient so they could create even more value.
  • Globally, 85 percent of industry executives surveyed by Accenture said they were putting their money down on getting their workers connected. Those who had already done so reported improvements in safety and productivity while they also saw decreases in operating costs.

As workers become more empowered to leverage technology, there’s a direct correlation between worker engagement and connected worker solutions to drive greater performance. Technology should be a benefit, not a hassle. With nearly 70 percent of the workforce actively disengaged with their work, it’s important to consider solutions that are not only important to drive business performance, but that will also keep your workers engaged with the work they do. Connected worker solutions like Anvl can address this issue, by empowering workers to be the voice behind the solutions to business processes.

Connected Workers and Smart Manufacturing

Smart manufacturing is the practice of implementing digital technologies to make processes safer and more efficient. And a great starting point when it comes to smart manufacturing is to look at the prospect of the connected worker, or those who are affixed via digital technologies. To date, most companies have focused their digitization investments on using asset and operations-related data, but digital investments that actively impact and empower the worker are not far behind. In fact, it’s a trend that’s largely already happening throughout various industries right now.

Connected Workers for Safety, Quality and Operations

It’s no secret that connected workers and connected worker solutions will highly benefit employees at all levels in their day-to-day work. But, how exactly do these solutions impact functional areas of safety, quality, and operations? Let’s take a look:

Connected Workers for Safety

Secondary to the possible cost of losing a worker’s life or physical health, manufacturing leadership failing to properly invest in safety measures can come at a great financial cost to the business. There are both direct and indirect costs of manufacturing leadership not investing in worker safety solutions on the job. Lost work days due to injury add up. Medically-consulted injury has an average cost of $42,000, while a death has an average cost of $1.15 million and according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies in America pay $62 billion per year for workplace injuries — that’s more than $1 billion per week.

Connected worker solutions provide real time data analysis that can produce real-time understanding of process and current actions, in many cases serving up real time suggestions or next steps to ensure safety protocols are being followed. Additionally, the breadth and depth of data collected by connected worker solutions can help manufacturing leadership identify, escalate, and communicate safety concerns before they fully materialize, saving time, money, and most importantly lives before a problem even arises.

Connected Worker Solutions for Quality

The last thing that any quality leader wants is a product defect that leads to wasted product, wasted time, and wasted money. However, implementing connected worker solutions are the answer to preventing such quality challenges from even occurring by ensuring process compliance, capturing product defects at the earliest point possible, and empowering workers to respond to actionable solutions provided to them.

Connected Worker Solutions for Operations

 The ins and outs of a manufacturing business are complex. Ultimately, manufacturing operations managers and leadership are focused on streamlining their operations to ensure that everything that occurs on the manufacturing floor is as efficient and cost effective as possible With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 and the strain that put on supply chain and manufacturing resources, operational efficiency has now become even more critical for the manufacturing floor.

A critical investment manufacturing leadership can make is that of investing in streamlined operations with technology. The more efficient and productive your operations can be, the quicker you can scale your business and the more profit you and your team will take home. Investing in a connected workforce, in general, is a critical move for manufacturing leadership to make. More specifically, investing in technology alongside human work and skill is a surefire way for manufacturing leadership to streamline operations. Streamlining manufacturing operations with the connected workforce will most benefit manufacturing leadership’s operational output in 3 key ways:

  1. Data Collection – by utilizing technology to collect frontline information, instead of traditional paper forms or delayed reporting by team members, the effort of teams to manually collect and even accurately input data is a thing of the past. With data collection being automated, workers daily tasks can be more focused on executing good work and not on clerical tasks. The element of human error disappears with technology being used to capture and secure data most critical to the success of the business. Utilizing a connected workforce tool to collect data also allows that data to stay secure and consistent even as workers come in and out of the business. It also allows new employees to have access to a rich history of data around the company’s operations and efficiency.
  2. Data Analysis – Just like data collection, data analysis takes a significant amount of human time and energy if done in a completely manual way. A connected workforce technology can help analyze said data much faster than manual human work can. AI and connected technology can take data analysis and prompt suggestions, results, next steps and more to the broader workforce, allowing human workers to do what they do best and stay focused at effectively executing their tasks with the power of data keeping them on track and in the right direction.
  3. Communication – When workers can be focused on performing the tasks they were hired to do and have more time in their day to do those tasks well due to data collection and analysis being automated, communication will naturally improve as all workers are executing their jobs off of the same unified data. More data and more connection informing decisions will improve and streamline operations.

How Leadership Benefits from Connected Workers

The connected worker and a more connected workforce is no longer the way of the future, it is the way companies are embracing right now. In the manufacturing industry specifically, leadership benefits from a connected workforce through three crucial business objectives: increased safety, improved quality, and boosted operations.

If a connected workforce and worker is not embraced by leadership, serious business implications could occur. Deloitte found that 25 to 31 per cent of the 3.3 million business services jobs are at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years. What does this mean for leaders at these booming business service companies?

That’s right, technology needs to be enabled by management and leadership. This is the spark that will ignite further developments down the workforce that will enable workers to adopt the digital technologies necessary to foster two-way communication between management and the frontline. In addition, according to Polaris, the global connected worker market was valued at $2,830.02 million (USD) in the year 2019, with a continuous average growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9 percent.

Why Connected Worker Solutions are a Must For Leadership

A connected workforce creates new possibilities that manufacturing leadership can apply right away for significant improvements on the shop floor and the bottom line. Three of the key areas include training, communication, and positive culture change, all of which tie directly into improved safety, quality, productivity and operations overall:

1. Training is Ongoing and Proactive

Digital transformation turns the day-long or multiple-days-long training sessions into ongoing, on-the-job training that continues as part of the daily routine. Workers can immediately connect activities on the shop floor to their responsibilities and visualize the expectations and guidelines through a digital format that is continually reinforced through the connected worker solutions from Anvl.

2. Communication is Better than Ever

Two-way communication between leadership and frontline workers is easier and faster through the Anvl mobile solution. You can stay in constant communication from a single mobile device for immediate interaction, across lines and offices, when it counts.

3. Spark Positive Culture Change 

Leadership often wants to “talk” about change, but digital transformation empowers workers to make active steps toward positive culture change themselves. This type of personal ownership gives them even more incentive to make those changes from the ground up because the change is rooted in people’s lives rather than the tech itself. The tech is a tool to empower the workers in their jobs and improves how they experience and perform their jobs.

Connected Workers and ROI

Investing in connected workforce solutions is a critical investment for companies at this pivotal point in industrial innovation. The connected worker is a more productive worker. The connected worker is a safer worker. The connected worker is a better investment for leadership. By investing in COnnected Worker Solutions, like Anvl, businesses will see significant ROI on resource and supply, increased worker safety, and boosted productivity.

Still Not Convinced that Connected Workers are a Great Investment?

Here are some common myths behind Connected Worker Solutions, and debunking why they are actually a great investment for your business:

Myth 1: Implementing Connected Worker Solutions is Difficult and Time Consuming

Part of the problem with this myth is that it can hinder leadership members who may personally have a different perception of new technologies than their workers. This is why opening up a productive dialog with workers is so important. In a recent global survey of employees, almost half of workers said they wished that their workplaces used more advanced technologies to get work done, or that they had access to better technological solutions.

The fact is, workers want to be connected, and they want to use the kinds of fast, easy technology that they already have on their own devices. Most of the incoming generation in the workforce are already familiar with digital solutions in their daily lives, but their workplace may not be as connected as they are. Everything we do outside of work is practically digitized and mobile. So, workers are already well-versed and experienced in adapting to the benefits of new apps and technologies. In general, leadership should be confident in their workers’ ability to adopt new technology quickly and effectively, as it’s something they already do in their daily lives.

Myth 2: Connected Worker Solutions are Costly

In this case, it is all a matter of choosing the right solution in the first place. Your workers are already used to using mobile devices. So, a mobile solution that connects workers to each other, to supervisors, to sensors throughout the building, to digital documentation and forms and notifications may simply be a matter of using the smartphones your workers already carry with them.

Instead of going to find a paper form or tracking down a busy supervisor for advice, connected worker solutions like Anvl can actually put the necessary data and forms right on their mobile devices for instant use, analysis and transmission. Even if getting connected workers requires getting dedicated worksite mobile devices, the ROI for the solution and the devices in terms of time and cost savings is significant and will pay for itself rather quickly.

Also, even if your business restricts personal mobile device use for any reason, affordable options for workforce devices come in the form of corporate and quantity discounts, or even Wi-Fi-only, or refurbished devices. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and the cost savings and ROI alone will be enough to justify the initial costs.

Myth 3: Connected Worker Solutions Will Replace Real People at Work

Fortunately, this is also untrue. The essential creativity and ingenuity from real, human workers is central to manufacturing within Industry 4.0. In fact, this connected worker paradigm shift actually makes the human workers more important than ever because it breaks down communications barriers between different departments, helps onsite and remote workers connect better with supervisors and provides workers with opportunities to show leadership within their own spheres of responsibility. This can actually help them develop and create even more solutions to improve quality and productivity, bolster workers safety and make operations run more efficiently. Technology is here to be a human worker’s colleague, not replacement.

Connected Workers as a Catalyst for Change with Anvl

The transition to a connected workforce doesn’t have to be met with complications. In fact, you might be surprised at just how simple it is to get started. Anvl is a connected worker solution that helps unlock critical data in real-time by connecting frontline workers and supervisors, through a single platform. Anvl delivers real-time data to streamline processes, improve quality, and keep your frontline safe. Our in-app messaging provides in-the-moment guidance, alerts, and analytics, resulting in improved productivity, reduced costs, and time savings. Click here to See Anvl in Action and contact one of our experts today.