The Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing revolution has arrived – bringing many challenges, particularly its impact on the operational workforce.
Previous industrial revolutions resulted in worker efficiency, improved individual performance, and expanded individual growth opportunities, creating a successful union of human workers and automated machines and systems.
This latest revolution focuses on communications between machines and systems. From a business perspective, the new 4.0 strategy is to eliminate dirty, dull, and dangerous tasks by running automated equipment, performing in-line testing, and moving products into production without human intervention.
The lack of skilled workers has accelerated this transition. While “running lights out” is a sound business strategy, it’s not about moving from task elimination to people elimination. Proponents of machine-to-machine communication note that the skilled labor shortage will jump to more than 2.5 million unfilled jobs in just a few years. Further, wage growth will be accelerated by the diminishing talent supply and expanding demand of businesses struggling to integrate the workforce required to work these new technologies. However, unless the transition is addressed first, the workers’ fear of unknown changes will negate any short-term gains created by technology upgrades. The move to Industry 4.0 is a change that must be realized to mitigate the pending lack of skilled resources.
As a result of working with several Manufacturing Alliance companies on advanced technology issues during the last half of 2019, the following actions should be undertaken prior to embarking on a smart manufacturing journey:
- Create an over-arching technology plan that overlays the organizational business plans
- Create and communicate a culture-changing technology initiative with the workforce
- Model desired change activities and actions, beginning with the leadership team
Greene Tweed, located in Kulpsville, PA, has put these actions into motion. Led by Henry Stueber, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations, Greene Tweed performed an in-depth analysis of its lean manufacturing, six sigma, and several other operational improvement initiatives and determined more analysis was needed. Henry and his staff explored other alternative strategies, benchmarked several national organizations, projected and forecasted ROI’s, and determined that an Industry 4.0 strategy was the best investment of future Greene Tweed resources.
“Greene Tweed has successfully reinvented itself and transitioned through the previous industrial revolutions. Now is the time to transform the organization with Industry 4.0, to prepare for the future and the next 150 years,” Henry said.
In addition, feedback from benchmarked companies recommended additional upfront effort to educate and promote the advanced technology changes prior to entering the workplace. Part of the Greene Tweed 4.0 Technology plan was to create an advanced manufacturing team that was focused on planning and implementing the necessary technology changes. This team became Greene Tweed’s change champions.
To promote the plan, a five-year technology campaign entitled “Factory Innovation and Technology Transformation: The Right FITT ™“ was developed and introduced to the organization, focusing on education, communication, and employee involvement prior to launching the 4.0 strategy.
“We made sure our communication was at all levels of the organization, even creating a pocket size employee toolkit to simplify and make accessible the key terms and concepts that would be key to the transformation,” Henry said.
To model leadership behavior and commitment, Henry was featured in a four-minute YouTube video that presented The Right FITT™ strategy and organizational goals and expectations. Henry shared this video with the Manufacturing Alliance.