Human Side of Industry 4.0: Challenges and Opportunities

Human side of Industry 4.0

Let’s discuss the human side of Industry 4.0. This technology is already here. Every day, new technologies give way to outdated systems, helping manufacturers to achieve Operational Excellence (OpEx).

Digital transformation is increasingly present in companies, making it crucial to invest in adequate platforms. Contrary to what many people think, the human side of Industry 4.0 is essential to ensure that the transition to digital is successful.

In today’s article, we tell you how combining human labor with Industry 4.0 technologies will help your business adapt and be ready to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Remembering the concept of Industry 4.0

Before we explain the human side of Industry 4.0, we need to remember its definition.

Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Smart Enterprise or Smart Manufacturing. It is about the use of advanced and automated technologies in the industry in order to increase manufacturing productivity and overcome the operational challenges of the new digital reality.

Through highly digitized facilities, Smart Factory stores and shares data via connected machines, devices and production systems. This data, in turn, can be used by self-optimizing devices or by the entire team to proactively solve problems, improve manufacturing processes and respond to new demands.

Human side of Industry 4.0: demystifying job loss

Many people, especially shop floor operators who deal with industrial machines on a daily basis, have the (mistaken) thought of associating the digitization of operational processes with job loss.

It is generally assumed that, because machines and processes are increasingly automated and intelligent, human labor – and hence their jobs – will no longer be needed. This does not correspond to reality and needs to be demystified.

Starting with the fact that Industry 4.0 has major implications for the nature of how a company chooses to organize itself and its delivery model. As such, companies will need to make sure the team understands these changes and how they can be part of it so that Operational Excellence is achieved.

In addition, as new technologies emerge, new skills (soft skills), such as information technology, IT, facility to analyze data and logistics, for example, will be required for the industry to continue operations.

Hence, it is useless for a manufacturing company to be intelligent, with modern machines and state-of-the-art technologies, if the workers do not know how to operate them and are not onboard with digital transformation.

Global studies reveal that the absence of a digital culture and the right training are the biggest challenges within industries.

Therefore, it is necessary that industries rearrange their teams, reallocating employees in new roles, based on their technical and personal skills.

The above fact also highlights the need for companies to invest in constant training so that their employees adapt to the digital culture.

At the same time, new professionals will be needed, creating new jobs and opportunities.

Projections suggest that, in the United States, about a third of production functions could change profoundly in the next decade. In operations-intensive sectors, the change will be even greater, estimated to be about 50% greater than for the economy as a whole.

The same study suggests that in other countries automation and digital technologies will create more jobs than they will replace existing ones. However, the demand for highly skilled and educated workers will increase significantly. In South Africa alone, for example, digitization and automation could result in a gain of up to 1.2 million jobs by 2030.

The study reinforces the assertion that it is wrong to think that machines will replace human labor and highlights, once again, the importance of training employees as a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of digital technology in companies.

Industry 4.0: It’s all about people

Let us give you some more examples of how the human side is and will be increasingly present within Industry 4.0.

Intelligent production systems require interdisciplinary experts

The success of all production starts with the shop floor operators. They are the ones who operate the machines on a daily basis and have the most extensive knowledge of what happens in the production chain.

As these machines become digital, smart and connected, operators also need to become smart, modern and connected. For this, they need to develop specific skills such as computing, logical reasoning and solid IT knowledge.

Here, we are again faced with the following thought: “What good is a modern machine if nobody knows how to operate it?”

Since the digital, no matter how secure, involves the possibility of cyber threats and information leakage, it is also necessary not only to hire specialists in the area, but also constant training so that the entire team knows the best practices to manipulate this information.

It is also worth remembering that it is necessary that all levels of manufacturing know how to analyze the management data obtained by intelligent machines, especially executive leaders who need to make the right decisions.

Leaders will need to be able to analyze this data to make decisions such as: is there a cheaper supplier to reduce production costs? Is it better to reduce the production of one product and allocate investments to increase the production of another? Will increasing the cost of selling of one specific product impact sales?

In this context, human training at all levels of the industry becomes essential for your business to achieve Operational Excellence and the human side is increasingly present and necessary in Industry 4.0.

Behind every technology there is a human developer

Another reason why we can say that the human side is present in Intelligent Manufacturing is the fact that behind every technology there is a human developer.

If we stop to think, no matter how modern the technologies are and no matter how intelligent and independent the machines are, behind the algorithms that make them smart, there are IT professionals and developers who have studied years to develop and improve these features. Thus, technology depends on human beings to exist.

For example, suppose your manufacturing company implements a highly intelligent “X” machine on the shop floor that allows you to print 3D products quickly and in a standardized way. Here you must be thinking “the machine does everything”, right?

But if you think about it, who produced this machine? Who developed the algorithms for it to be intelligent and, in a way, autonomous? Who studied years to analyze which component, which material will be the most suitable for this equipment? We are sure that the answer to all these questions is the human being. So, does machine “X” really do it all by itself?

Also, in this same example, who will input the correct data into the machine? Who will analyze and optimize the business results?

In this example, you can see that the human side is absolutely present in an environment surrounded by cutting-edge machines and technologies.

Machines need periodic maintenance

Every machine can have technical failures. Although some technologies allow the machine itself to generate a fault report and be able to repair itself, it is essential that operators regularly check the operation of the machines to prevent failures and delays in production.

Let’s go back to the example of the “X” machine. Let’s suppose that a machine part has failed and, therefore, the size of half of the production line is out of the standard.

As much as the machine indicates that there is a problem, if the operator does not verify that something is wrong, half of the production will be discarded. Consequently, there will be delays in the final delivery of the product and new expenses that could have been avoided.

When performing periodic maintenance and the progress of operations, as soon as a part of the production line does not comply with the others, the operator will promptly verify the reason for such failure, perform the necessary maintenance (or call the person responsible for maintenance) and prevent product quality and delivery from being compromised.

Production quality depends on motivated employees

Production quality is a direct result of employee motivation.

For example, if shop floor operators are unmotivated and notice that machine “X” in our previous examples has malfunctioned, they will simply be quiet and pretend nothing happened. Consequently, production quality will be compromised.

It is already scientifically proven that happy employees produce up to 50% more.

In this context, investing in the humanization of work is increasingly important, not only for them to perform their duties more diligently, but also for them to understand how the role of each person is essential for the growth of Industry 4.0.

This also includes the advantages of industries using technologies, such as gamification, to engage employees – which will significantly facilitate the understanding of operations during shift change – and motivate them through a “rewards system” that allows setting goals and challenges to be fulfilled and exchanged for points and rewards such as days off, prizes, cash bonuses, etc.

It all starts and ends with a culture focused on human beings

We’ve already explained to you that operational success starts with shop floor operators. The focus of Industry 4.0 is to benefit from digital machines and technologies in order to optimize the production chain to better meet consumer needs. To do this, digital tools need to focus on the people involved in their operations.

For example, solutions like digital work instructions ensure operators have a step-by-step guide to getting their work done right, and also the flexibility to capture improvements along the way.

Furthermore, as new skills are required, learning should be presented in an intuitive and familiar way.

However, both executive leadership and shop floor operators must understand that digital tools are only part of the solution. Learning and success in manufacturing depend on a culture that promotes responsibility, efficiency and a deep dedication to quality.

Building a learning culture on the shop floor means delivering clear expectations from leadership. Successfully adopting manufacturing technology isn’t just about performance – more knowledge, delivered to the people who need it, means that at the end of the day work is more fun and rewarding.

Therefore, we can say that everything in Industry 4.0, everything starts and ends in a culture focused on the human being. It’s all about people!

How can Solvace empower your company’s employees and prepare them for Industry 4.0?

Solvace is a company specializing in the development of high performance solutions for manufacturers who believe that Operational Excellence and Digitization are key enablers to improve business results.

For this, we have a team of professionals with extensive expertise on the factory floor, revolutionary software with cutting-edge technologies and the collaboration of leading OpEX consultants.

We believe that all manufacturing employees should be able to use their platforms as part of a Performance Management system.

Our main objective is to empower frontline workers with tools that make their work easier and, at the same time, link factories of different organizations in a management system that promotes performance and knowledge management.

In this context, Solvace’s connected work platform is the ideal solution for your company. Our solution has the broadest coverage in the market to digitize Operational Excellence activities, leading to greater efficiency and effectiveness for the entire industry.

Born on the factory floor, Solvace’s platform is built on modular logic “all in one”, with a single highly efficient and secure database capable of sharing information quickly and easily between front lines and different factories.

The company makes it clear to its customers that despite technological advances and the need for companies to invest in digital to remain competitive, workers are a critical factor for the success of the strategies in Industry 4.0.

Thus, Solvace’s platform is designed to combine industry 4.0 technologies with human labor, empowering employees and optimizing their operations. The solution connects all manufacturing employees, generating operational insights and empowering workers at all levels.

For example, the complete set of tools present in the Solvace platform empowers employees in an intuitive way. Reports based on real-time data allow managers to make better decisions. We work “hand in hand” to find the best solutions and deliver excellent results for our customers.

Global partners and customers trust Solvace to achieve operational excellence in Industry 4.0. There are already more than 50 satisfied customers, distributed in more than 75 countries and in various segments, such as Services, Consumer Goods, Food and Beverage, Packaging, Process Industry, Automotive, Aerospace, Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals.

Contact us and request a free demo today!