Six ways connected worker platforms benefit factory automation

Connected worker platforms can help make workers safer and more productive in the factory of the future by giving them better insights through real-time data.

By Eric Whitley October 24, 2023
Courtesy: L2L


Learning Objectives

  • Understand how the factory floor has changed thanks to automation and how the connected worker benefits.
  • Understand connected worker benefits such as improved productivity, safety and better collaboration and communication among workers.

Connected worker insights

  • Connected worker platforms enhance factory productivity by providing real-time data, enabling rapid decision-making, predictive analysis and seamless integration with other factory systems.
  • These platforms significantly improve factory safety by delivering real-time alerts and safety procedures, fostering adherence to safety protocols, minimizing error and providing valuable insights.

Factories face numerous challenges from maintaining operational efficiency to ensuring worker safety. As technology advances, connected worker platforms emerge as a promising solution to these challenges.

Through real-time data access, enhanced safety measures and improved collaboration, connected worker platforms empower factory workers. They provide workers a clear, immediate view of the production process, the performance of machines and critical safety information.

By integrating data, connectivity and human skills, connected worker platforms not only address the challenges factories face today, but are helping shape manufacturing’s future.

1. Enhancing productivity with real-time data

Connected worker platforms are vital assets in modern manufacturing due to their ability to deliver real-time data to factory personnel. Instant access to data provides workers with a transparent, up-to-the-minute view of the production process, including machine performance, production rates, and potential anomalies or disruptions in the workflow.

The real-time data gives workers the insights needed to respond to any changes in the production process. In an environment where every minute counts, the capacity to make swift, informed decisions can enhance the overall productivity of factory operations.

Furthermore, the data derived from these platforms can be used for predictive analysis, making it possible to forecast production trends and detect potential issues before they escalate. This optimizes operational efficiency and reduces downtime, leading to improved output and cost-effectiveness.

Integrating connected worker platforms with other factory systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) promotes holistic factory management. The seamless flow of real-time data across these systems improves coordination and streamlines the decision-making process, further bolstering productivity.

2. Improving factory safety measures

Connected worker platforms improve factory safety with their comprehensive safety features, which include real-time alerts, detailed procedures and simplified incident reporting mechanisms.

Real-time alerts notify workers of potential hazards such as machinery malfunctions or unsafe conditions. Delivering real-time alerts to relevant personnel, from factory floor workers to management, ensures necessary safety measures can be implemented.

They also provide access to comprehensive safety procedures. These guidelines offer clear instructions for operating machinery, handling materials and responding to emergency situations. By making these procedures available to all workers, the platforms foster adherence to safety protocols and minimize the risk of human error.

Connected worker safety features also extend to post-incident processes. Streamlined incident reporting allows for swift accident response, facilitating immediate medical attention for injured workers and rapid hazard mitigation. The collected data can be used to identify patterns and trends in factory accidents, providing valuable insights for formulating preventative measures.

3. Boosting collaboration and knowledge sharing

Connected worker platforms have revolutionized the way factory workers interact, collaborate and share knowledge. These platforms serve as centralized hubs for information exchange, breaking down barriers between roles and departments, and fostering unity within the workforce.

Through these platforms, workers can share information about machine performance, operational issues and process improvements. An open line of communication enables rapid problem-solving, leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of the workforce to find innovative solutions. As a result, this reduces downtime and improves operational efficiency.

Connected worker platforms also enable the documentation and preservation of critical knowledge.

As experienced workers leave, their expertise and understanding of specific factory processes can be lost. These platforms help mitigate this issue by allowing workers to document their knowledge and experiences, making it accessible to new or less experienced workers.

The ongoing process of knowledge sharing fosters a culture of continuous learning, equipping workers with the skills and understanding they need to adapt to new technologies and processes. As such, factories become more agile and responsive, capable of meeting the evolving demands of the modern industrial landscape.

Workers in an air bag factory using a connected worker platform. Courtesy: L2L

Workers in an air bag factory using a connected worker platform. Courtesy: L2L

4. Facilitating data-driven decision making

Data is the new oil in the Industry 4.0 era. Connected worker platforms play a pivotal role in this data-centric approach by collecting, organizing, and analyzing a vast array of data from the factory floor.

They gather data from diverse sources such as machine performance metrics, production rates, quality checks and worker feedback. The ability to compile such a comprehensive dataset offers a holistic view of factory operations and helps companies make informed decisions.

However, the value of data lies in its analysis: connected worker platforms transform raw data into actionable insights. Data analysis can highlight patterns and trends, identify inefficiencies and forecast future scenarios, equipping decision makers with the knowledge needed to strategically steer their operations.

By harnessing the power of data, factories optimize various aspects of their operations, from production scheduling to inventory management and quality control. A data-driven approach also enables proactive risk management because potential issues can be identified and addressed before they become more serious.

5. Increased worker satisfaction and engagement

Satisfaction and engagement among the workforce are vital to the success of any organization. Connected worker platforms improve workplace morale by incorporating features designed to enhance the user experience and promote active engagement.

One such feature is the user-friendly interface, which are intuitive and easy to navigate, reducing the learning curve and making it simpler for workers to access the information they need. This ease of use can improve workers’ experience, thereby increasing their satisfaction and willingness to engage with the platform.

Connected worker platforms also provide real-time feedback, giving workers immediate insights into their performance. Feedback allows workers to understand how their actions contribute to the overall process, helping them feel valued and part of the larger team. It also identifies areas for improvement, fostering a culture of continuous learning and personal growth.

6. Enhancing human workforce capabilities with advanced technology

Connected worker platforms, with their integration of advanced technologies, are at the forefront of a new era of factory automation. This revolution is characterized by a balance between operational efficiency, technological innovation and the well-being of the workforce.

They harness advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning, IoT and cloud computing:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can analyze vast amounts of data to predict machine failures, optimize production processes and identify safety risks.

  • IoT sensors collect real-time data from the factory floor, providing insights into every aspect of the operation.

  • Cloud computing allows for the storage and analysis of this data, making it accessible anytime, anywhere.

What sets these platforms apart is how they integrate these technologies to create a unified system that improves operational efficiency and supports the human element of factory operations.

For instance, they can provide workers with personalized, real-time training or guide them through complex tasks using augmented reality. They also can monitor worker health and safety in real time, using wearable sensors to detect signs of fatigue or stress.

Connected worker platforms are the future

Connected worker platforms are not only addressing the challenges of today’s factories, but also are leading toward a future where technological advancement does not overshadow the human element.

Instead, connected worker platforms are creating a synergistic environment where technology is used to amplify human skills and fostering a seamless coexistence of technology and human ingenuity in the factory of the future.

Author Bio: Eric Whitley is senior account manager at Leading2Lean, a CFE Media content partner.