Maximizing the Digital Manufacturing Workforce

Nov. 10, 2016
By empowering workers to continually learn new skills to do more with technology, equipment manufacturers will improve their ability to innovate, generate better business outcomes, and grow.

The digital era is greatly benefiting the industrial manufacturing sector, including industrial equipment manufacturers, helping them innovate and create the advanced products and services that customers want. But, though digital technology is enabling such advances, none of them would be possible without one key element: people.

As digitization becomes more pervasive, it is reshaping manufacturing’s competitive landscape in an emerging digital economy. This transformation, however, is also prompting an important question: What role will the worker ultimately play in this changing business environment? The answer is a pivotal one, according to a global trends report conducted by Accenture. The report concludes that companies that develop a people-first approach when embracing digital technologies will be the winners in today’s marketplace. By empowering workers to continually learn new skills to do more with technology, equipment manufacturers will improve their ability to innovate, generate better business outcomes, and grow.

In addition, Accenture surveyed more than 3,100 business and IT executives worldwide, and found that 33 percent of the global economy is already being impacted by digital transformation. Moreover, 86 percent of survey respondents anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase at a rapid or unprecedented rate over the next three years. As the pace of technology change accelerates, the prospect of keeping up with it to remain competitive is daunting.

Despite this challenge, however, equipment manufacturers that adopt a people-first approach can create new digital-driven business models that could not only help them remain competitive, but also be prepared for digital disruption and thrive in the industrial equipment market.

In one example case, a leading industrial company established a new approach applying the people-first concept to an initiative that connected employees much more closely to customers. It led to rapid deployment of innovative solutions that sold well because they met and exceeded customer expectations.

Digital trends

Accenture has identified five technology trends fueled by the people-first principal that can aid the ability of organizations to succeed. They include:

  1. Intelligent automation. Leading industrial companies are embracing automation powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality to fundamentally change the way their business operates, developing a productive relationship between people and machines.
  2. The liquid workforce. By using technology to transform their workforce, leading manufacturers will be able to create highly adaptable and flexible working environments that are capable of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s growing and frequently changing demand for digitally enabled products and services. Building such a workforce will also offer organizations a competitive advantage against rivals.
  3. Platform economy. Leading digital adopters are leveraging the power of technology to develop platform-based business models to capture new growth opportunities, driving the most profound change in the global market since the industrial revolution. Eighty-one percent of the survey respondents agree that platform-based business models will become part of their organizations’ growth strategy within three years.
  4. Predictable disruption. Emerging digital ecosystems will create the foundation for the next wave of market disruption across industries, including the industrial manufacturing sector, by overlapping markets and blurring industry boundaries. Companies already are experiencing ecosystem disruption. Eighty-one percent of the respondents indicate that they are seeing it in their industry.
  5. Digital trust. Trust is the cornerstone of the digital economy, according to 83 percent of the survey respondents. To gain the trust of individuals, ecosystems and regulators, organizations must focus on digital ethics as a strategy. Security alone will not be enough.

A winning future

Digitization will do much to enhance the ability of industrial equipment manufacturers to innovate. But they will also need to ensure that their workforce is an integral part of the organization’s digital transformation to win in a rapidly changing and challenging global equipment market.

>>Andy Howard, [email protected], is managing director of the Automotive and Industrial Equipment Group at Accenture.

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