As we welcome the age of Industry 4.0 in the HR industry, it’s important to realize that change is already here. My organization is very much a part of this transformation too. A great example I’m reminded of is how our Industry 4.0 team has given front line managers and supervisors in factories the ability to deal with some of the key challenges they face – time management, shift absenteeism and worker allocation to machines. In Indian factories, these challenges are harder than most markets due to the high pressure of meeting production targets while connecting with workers, ensuring safety standards, meeting quality standards and attending to breakdowns.
Thanks to our innovative Industry 4.0 solution, front line managers now get real-time alerts about workers coming for a shift as soon as they board the company bus. As soon as a worker punches their attendance upon entering a plant, they are informed about which machine they are allocated to for the day. Attendance data is automatically exchanged with the server where the associate skill matrix is stored. Thus, skillsets are analyzed, and manpower allocation is conducted as soon as a worker walks into the plant.
This solution also provides real-time availability of an Emergency Response Team (ERT) and details about the number of firefighters and first-aiders available. On average, this leads to time savings of at least 15 minutes per shift for front line managers that can be devoted to other value-added tasks. For our organization, this led to a productivity increase by 2.5 percent and a payback period of 1.7 years for an investment below INR two million for a plant of 2500 workmen. We also eliminated 100 logbooks per year – a significant contribution to the environment.
Industry 4.0 leads to significant business value creation
Today, volatile markets have become the norm for all industries due to high customer expectations and factors such as shorter delivery times, worldwide operations and 24×7 service. Product lifecycles are getting smaller and the key differentiator is innovation. Disruptive business models are thus leading to changes in social behavior and the emergence of new corporations and business models. Industry 4.0 provides solutions for digital lifecycle management, faster integration, flexible configuration, virtual representation and decentralized intelligence leading to a secure value creation network. This cannot be successful without people playing a key role.
Hence, there needs to be a change in management thinking from networks of teams (where teams and team leaders are king) to growth and citizenship – where people, communities and global networks will lead the stage. As technology rapidly advances, changes will be required at three levels:
• Individuals must learn and develop skills
• Organizations must adapt faster
• Public policies must change faster
HR has to play a significant role in bridging the gaps in speed of adaptation as conforms by Deloitte studies.
Progress of AI and people – Key to the success of Industry 4.0
While robots are not new in the industry, the first industrial robot called “UNIMATE” began operating in 1961 at General Motors. Designed as a 4000-pound industrial arm, it was involved in manufacturing TV picture tubes. We have come a long way since then and robots now perform complex and several tasks for multiple industries. In 2017, global sales of industrial robots reached $13 billion, and their implementations range from humanoid robots engaged in social care to AI-based customer service agents. In fact, it is not hard to envisage a future wherein robots are not only deployed for blue collar work, but for more complex strategic roles as well.
As more money gets diverted towards AI projects, there are sure to be plenty of success stories and failures to learn from. In case of reluctance or difficulties in realizing the complete benefits of Industry 4.0 though, the predictable hurdles are sure to be caused by management, legal and political issues and a lack of buy-in by the workforce. Smart machines are poised to become coworkers and partners for human workers, and it will be the PURPOSE and PASSION of humans that will set them apart and offer competitive advantage. Creativity and critical thinking will thus become key facets for the human workforce.
The speed of change around us is unrelenting and unforgiving. An EY report shows that more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies from 2006 do not even exist today. Furthermore, 200,000 surveyed job seekers said that their job preferences are now shifting towards cultural aspects. Rather than valuing the salary (ranked eight), job seekers prefer a good work-life balance, better relationships with colleagues, appreciation for work and good relationships with the boss. In an increasing war for talent, HR personnel need to keep these factors in mind while deploying IoT solutions for the new-age worker who will be interested to work for a more empathetic company even with a lessor pay as they will work for a “Passion” & “Purpose”.
In our personal lives too, things have changed. In “The Three Boxes of Life”, Dick Bolles explains how life has evolved from the scenario where education, work and retirement used to be met one after another, to a situation where all the stages come together today. Organizations and the society at large are thus moving towards lifelong learning, lifelong work and lifelong leisure. Modern workplaces have thus changed, and we are witnessing new ways of working, new mindsets and new behaviors.
In my next post, I’ll be speculating on the future of HR in the age of IoT and how I am preparing for this future.
Note: Views expressed in this post are exclusively the author’s personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the company’s viewpoint.