Empowering workers at the edge

Workers view technology differently than as a cost driver.

In a few weeks, Lockheed Martin’s Rick Boggs presents on empowering humans at the edge

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Lockheed Martin's Rick Boggs

during the third-annual Smart Industry conference. Today he previews his presentation. Take a look…

Smart Industry: How can the value of the IIoT be extended to the human at the edge?

Rick: The response depends on the definition of value. Value to the organization is the effect technology has on the cost and schedule of the product being produced. Can the technology really save the organization money and time?  At what cost? From the workers’ perspective, they view technology differently than as a cost driver. They want technology that can improve their quality of life on the job while not replacing them. They must think of technology as a job aide or something to assist them to perform their function, not as a threat. 

Smart Industry: What are the benefits to be gained from considering each human worker a sensor? What pitfalls exist?

Rick: There is process-improvement data that can be gained from sensored workers that could affect the cost and schedule of goods and services produced. An organization could find unneeded/duplicated steps, unseen safety issues, or inventory placement or locations of sub-assemblies that could reduce production costs. Another potential cost reduction comes when an organization starts to trust data provided by these sensors and is able to reduce items like paper reports, quality checks, excess inventory, etc. These are all items that drive up the cost of manufacturing.

The biggest pitfall is acceptance by the worker and the organization. Change is hard to implement—critical is the trust issue between management and workers. What is the workers’ trust level that management is not trying to replace them with technology and is not spying on them? Management has to change and accept new policy and procedures that are counter to the way they have always run their organization and controlled their employees. Another management issue is trusting the data gathered and not becoming overwhelmed by it. Data for the sake of data is not a good thing.

Smart Industry: What reception have you seen among human workers asked to adopt these tactics/technologies? Are there methods to prompt warmer reception to advances that might spook personnel? 

Rick: In my experience, it’s the age and education of the employee that drive their acceptance to technology and the changes that it can have on them. By education I don’t mean schooling; I mean the knowledge of the difference that the technology can provide to the worker. And workers that have grown up with technology and show no fear of it have a tendency to adopt new tools easier. The better an organization shares with employees information about the technology or process change, the better it will be accepted. Realizing the cost benefits of these changes requires trust between management and workers…an understanding that implementing this technology benefits the organization, the management and the workers.

 

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