As digital transformation initiatives continue to bridge the divide between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), sending more plant-level data upward to the enterprise level is not the only concern at hand. Equally important is allowing operations personnel to become more attuned to developments pertaining to equipment assets, fellow team members, and the broader organization by offering them the same overall visibility granted to other stakeholders.
The notion of a connected workforce means that OT personnel can move from being reactive to being proactive. Rather than prowling plants with clipboards searching for something to work on, predictive analytics systems help these workers better allocate their labor by directing them to more value-added tasks. This shift can lead to an assortment of benefits, including improving asset health and reliability, streamlining work processes, and even attracting a more modern workforce. In fact, the potential gains are so impressive that some have suggested the appointment of an “Automation and Data Exchange Engineer” to facilitate greater coordination between OT and IT.
One primary enabler of a connected OT workforce has been the growing proliferation of wearable and mobile technologies, with simple consumer devices such as smart phones becoming potential windows into analytics, training materials, and other useful information. Moreover, wearables like Bluetooth earpieces and augmented reality (AR) headsets can allow workers to be guided through a procedure by a remote expert in real-time.
Yet, in order for workers to fully take advantage of these connected devices, software platforms are needed to integrate data from numerous sources, act as repositories of collected knowledge, and ease access for end-users.
To meet this challenge, Aveva, a provider of engineering and industrial software, has released its cloud-based Aveva Teamwork platform, which promises to foster communication and knowledge sharing on the plant floor by allowing documentation and training videos to be shared, as well as facilitating social-media-style interactions among employees about relevant workplace issues. In essence, Aveva Teamwork treats human workers as the most valuable sensors within a plant, capable of gathering and sharing insights into productivity that can aid in process improvement across an organization.
Such capabilities are particularly relevant in an era when rapidly changing technology has created a skills gap, and keeping frontline workers up to date has proven difficult. By combing multimedia content, skills management modules, and communication features into a single application, Aveva Teamwork hopes to provide a continuously updated knowledge base of best practices and training content that can be quickly and automatically shared with workers who need it, even across shifts and global locations.
When using Aveva Teamwork, plant workers are able to use mobile devices to scan QR codes placed throughout a facility to be granted access to standard work instructions, trouble-shooting solutions, equipment key performance indicators (KPIs), and other valuable information. They are also able to post important production updates and send out calls for assistance in a variety of multimedia formats such as text, photo, or video. In addition, the application’s skills management system allows workers to be endorsed by administrators for new roles, skill sets, and responsibilities based on the completion of training modules and real performance in the field.
“Aveva Teamwork will enable organizations to capture experienced worker knowledge and create sustainable video-based learning content, thereby reducing training time and costs for new operators by up to 50%, “said Rashesh Mody, senior vice president for the monitoring and control business unit at Aveva. “Industrial workers will now have the benefit of being able to learn continuously, on-the-job, while also contributing to collective knowledge and best practices, and likewise industrial organizations also now have the knowledge and tools they need to drive continuous improvement in productivity, waste, quality, and safety.”