Thinking Differently: New Skillsets, New Frameworks
Emergence of new skillset
One of the biggest discussions around smart initiative implementation is the types of new skillsets and technologies that labour force will need to be equipped with. Tom spoke of moving towards a fully wireless plant operating system. With only manual processes, manufacturers lack control over access to different areas in their plant and so often compromise on safety standards. But with a wireless smart device, businesses have greater control over where and how their employees move around the plant. This then throws up the question of how employees would operate within a more digitised and integrated work place. “What is the future operator going to look like?” asks Madilao. With new technologies, capabilities and tools in place, how can we prepare operators and what will their job scopes be like?
“I am looking into the application of a ‘mobile worker’, for example,” says Madilao. “This is having a tablet at the fingertips of the operator going around in the plant, so that he or she can take a look at what’s happening at their fingertips.”
Creating a new business model
For Dr. Kegel, Industrie 4.0 is an enabling technology that helps businesses enter the next quality of business applications. The new business model is one that fully adopts automation, but for Dr. Kegel it is also about ensuring full traceability from customer order to delivery. Pepperl+Fuchs extrapolated that “the cost of manual labour will go up whereas the cost of automation will go down.”
“The buzzword [now] is of course transparency, traceability,” says Dr. Kegel. “All this additional information that you need to have for your customer… So, our customers will call us and at the push of a button, they need to know where the delivery is, whether it is still in our warehouse, whether it is on the flight, or it has been received already. You can’t do this in a manual warehouse. You need to fully automate this for a complete traceability of products.”
"Think big, start small, move fast" framework
For many businesses, all these solutions – from wireless connectivity to automation – might be too big and overwhelming for them to even consider. But for Yeoh, businesses should consider this framework: “Think big”, “start small” and “move fast”. To “think big” is a multi-disciplinary approach – to look beyond the areas of your own specialisation, says Yeoh. “You have to think cross-functionally when you come to implementation. You cannot function based on your functional excellence,” he says. “Now most of us are very good in functional excellence, that means the specialisation. That brings about functional silos, where we are only deep within our area, whereas when we come to the multi-disciplinary or cross-functional, we struggle.”
But it doesn’t mean businesses should go large in investment. “Start small” says Yeoh. “We have to balance all the needs between our reality and the transformation. We still have to make enough money to pay for the stakeholders, shareholders, suppliers... So, start small, identify where are the costs drivers in the plant. Where are the pain points? Where are the opportunities?” Then it’s time to “move fast”.
“Once proof of concept is done, move on,” says Yeoh. “Don’t talk about 18 or 24 months. In the technology world where things change so fast, you have to talk about three or six months. Once you prove [concept], launch it, make some money, re-invest into another project. Once you do that, there’s no one layer or one investment that is going to turn around the whole thing. It is a journey, so you have to invest, prove it, move fast. After you do multiple success stories, then you will see the power of transformation.”