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Industry 4.0: Keeping Humans at the Center of Manufacturing

IIoT. AI. Robots. Modern manufacturing can sound like a science fiction movie. One of the biggest fears that keeps companies from adopting new technology is the assumption that it will eliminate production jobs.

For manufacturing companies, survival depends on the ability to innovate, which necessitates keeping up with the latest technological advances. Upgrading your facility doesn’t mean losing employees. In fact, factories of the future require a human-centric approach to manufacturing in order to maximize efficiency and stay competitive.

Collaborative Manufacturing Companies

“A human-centered approach to A.I. means these machines don’t have to be our competitors, but partners in securing our well-being,” says Fei-Fei Li, director of Stanford University’s new Human-Centered AI initiative which is based on the belief that technology “should enhance our humanity, not diminish or replace it.” This is also a core value of Industry 4.0: the next revolution in manufacturing.

The modern factory integrates technology to complement human ingenuity. Manufacturing AI has even earned the nickname CoBots, or collaborative robots. This partnership is improving manufacturing in several ways:

  • Machines are creating safer factories by handling the dangerous work.
  • Faster, more efficient factories with fewer errors will allow humans to focus on jobs that require critical thinking like marketing and engineering.
  • Humans create while machines build for greater innovation. Technology is predicted to increase productivity in manufacturing companies by nearly 40% and revenues by 38% by 2035.

Redesigning Organizational Structure for Greater Innovation

While machines have changed manufacturing work, AI has not replaced the work performed by skilled manufacturing professionals. While technology is making manufacturing companies faster and more efficient, every factory still depends on brain power in order to be competitive. Robots can run assembly lines, but they can’t think of new ideas.

Manufacturing leaders can use this technological revolution as an opportunity to grow and innovate by restructuring their workforce. Humans should be working on new ideas, growing your product line, and helping take business to the next level. Technology will create new factory jobs like managers, engineers, programmers, and IT support. Leaders can fill these new skilled positions in two ways:

  1. Training their current production workers for factories of the future.
  2. Recruiting millennial workers with strong technology backgrounds.
Screenshot on a mobile device of a team app communication stream for a manufacturing company sharing a new maintenance reporting policy.

Internal Communication For Factories of the Future

As the nature of manufacturing jobs changes, companies need to adopt complementary internal communications strategies. Factory workers will still be highly-mobile given the layout of the environment, but their connection to one another will be even more important in their new roles.

Designed for dispersed frontline workforces, a team app connects manufacturing employees to one another, their managers, and to the company, over their mobile devices. A team app can support the modern manufacturing facility in a number of ways.

Upskill your workforce using the team app to distribute videos and information to help train them for new positions. Real-time communication allows workers to keep up with the high speed operations of technology-powered manufacturing. A team app facilitates collaboration between workers to ignite innovation.

When manufacturing companies take a human-centered approach to Industry 4.0, they’ll experience faster, more efficient production, higher output, and greater innovation. They’ll develop a robust, skilled workforce and a factory that thrives and grows in a crowded, competitive industry.

To learn how your manufacturing company can effectively communicate in the Industry 4.0 era, download our Holcim case study.