The smart factory: Tailoring the digital workplace to specific manufacturing needs

COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the journey to a digital workplace across virtually every industry, and manufacturing is no exception. Companies have adopted digital technologies at pace. But do these tools give employees the on-demand and personalized experience they have long yearned for? Are they giving employees an enhanced experience that allows them to be more productive? Or did the urgency with which companies needed to react simply lead to a one-size-fits-all digital approach that doesn’t meet employee needs?

Recognizing diverse needs

For industries like manufacturing, where there’s a wide range of working locations and styles, one size fits all just doesn’t cut it. Executives, field engineers, individuals in the factory, technicians in the laboratory and sales teams have very different needs – both in terms of the devices they use to access tools and information and how they access support when they need it.

If I’m a customer-facing employee on the shop floor, for instance, I need rapid access within a couple of clicks because I need to get back to servicing customers. If I’m in the factory, I need access through a device I can carry around the factory. If I’m travelling, I need access no matter where I am, whether that’s on a train, on a plane or at a customer site. I might even use my own device.

If I’m working in a factory, I need on-site support because I need to get back to work quickly. If I’m on the road, I need to access support via a mobile app. If I’m an executive, I need my own telephone number to contact for support.

Digital technology providers like Atos need to provide a robust and effective approach to the digital workplace that is timely and tailored. But how?

Tailoring the digital workplace

The trick lies in a technique known as ‘persona mapping’ that allows us to provide the optimal digital workplace for all employees, not just for now but also in the future. The analytical technique enables us to gain a deep understanding of employees’ needs over a period of weeks – sometimes even months.

We begin persona mapping by treating employees as different persona groups. Working closely with each persona group – sitting alongside them and interviewing them – allows us to get a real feel for their day-to-day challenges. We uncover where their pain points are, why devices are failing, and where the productivity issues are impeding them.

After contextualizing what we have learned into a framework, we build an approach that considers each persona’s working style, needs, challenges, opportunities and device preferences. That approach helps us identify how best to deliver the optimal digital workplace for each persona group.

The technologies recommended will vary widely across the different persona groups. But we always give employees the best, the most modern technologies to for their work. Examples might include:

  • Augmented reality (AR) headsets allow employees to assemble machines and create products more efficiently; enhance the training experience, and enable scarce experts to provide remote support and guidance.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots provide real-time access to support at any time and from anywhere, reducing the amount of time they spend interacting with operations or support.

Building the smart factory

Armed with this knowledge, we’re ready to build what we refer to as the ”smart factory”. The smart factory is a manufacturing company that boasts modern and fit-for-purpose digital workplaces across its core manufacturing locations. But, crucially, it ensures employees have the devices and know-how they need to access tools, information and support, and collaborate in a smart way.

In addition to leveraging our analytical capabilities in persona mapping, the smart factory also draws on our modern management capabilities. Modern management is about minimizing any disruption to employees by reducing the failure rate of devices and updating devices in near real-time. That means updating devices in real-time so employees can get to work immediately after logging on, no matter what device they’re using. And we can do that because we take a holistic approach to managing all devices within all locations.

Business change training and development is another core aspect of building a smart factory. Again, this is about getting employees familiar with their devices and services, so they have the confidence to maximize the value they gain from them.

Finally, achieving high levels of adoption relies on a well thought out communication plan. We might, for example, look to senior executives to advocate the smart factory. A short video might demonstrate how they are using their new technology and its benefits to encourage others to follow suit.

A positive impact on finances and retention

The long-term benefits we’ve seen manufacturing companies gain by investing in a smart factory have been phenomenal, both from a financial and an employee experience perspective:

  • 20 per cent reduction in field service support needs
  • 25 per cent reduction in service desk tickets
  • 20 per cent increase in employee satisfaction, with that doubling in companies starting with very low levels.

We’re also seeing high levels of employee engagement and retention. Employees see their company making a commitment to them by investing in digital technologies tailored to their needs. That resonates in a way that enhances their commitment.

Many manufacturing companies have already started out on their journey toward a smart factory, evolving their mode of operation with innovations, understanding personas and ideas around the workplace of the future. However, for those struggling to leap forward, Atos is here to help.

We, too, are on a journey, continually adapting to ensure we’re at the forefront of what we do. Our industry verticals nurture our deep expertise in our clients’ industries. And our Digital Workplace Practice supports each industry, tailoring services to that industry’s specific needs to ensure they’re relevant.

In January 2021, once again recognized Atos as the leader in workplace services across EMEA, reflecting our firm commitment to the employee experience.

There is no one-size-fits-all. Reach out to explore building your own smart factory. Let’s discuss how to deliver your employees the optimal experience. In the meantime, why not take a peek at our Atos Digital Workplace.

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About Devesh Rasgotra
Engagement Manager for Digital Workplace
Devesh Rasgotra is an Engagement Manager for Digital Workplace at Atos UK & I, having joined the organisation in 2016. His role is to work alongside clients to explore how digital transformation, IT strategy, workplace consulting & Atos’ services can support them on their digital journey. Recently, he is working with the Manufacturing Industry to highlight how Atos’ Digital Workplace services can support clients in this area.