Manufacturers should keep workers engaged in technology adoption: report | Manufacturing Asia
Image source: WEF

Manufacturers should keep workers engaged in technology adoption: report

Frontline workers, often overlooked, could offer valuable insights.

Manufacturers from around the world should keep workers aware and involved in introducing and integrating new technologies into their operations to ensure a successful implementation, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

WEF said that more and more manufacturers are turning to advanced technologies to fill in the gaps in their operations and respond to the ongoing challenges and demand in an increasingly competitive market.

The report found that frontline workers in the industry appreciate employers who can effectively explain the benefits of and the rationale for introducing these technologies into their operations.

Hearing the plight of the workers during the decision-making process is also crucial to avoid making them feel ignored in a system that directly affects both the employees and the workflow. 

For instance, in one of the interviews conducted, WEF said a factory that abruptly changed a perfectly working phone system in the production line without prior consultations with shop-floor workers only caused frustration among the employees.

“[The study] demonstrates how workers’ insights can be used to contribute to the process and thereby add value to companies, resulting in higher employee retention, improved employee satisfaction and a measurable return on investment (ROI) due to more efficient and effective technology introductions,” it stated.

Providing employees time and opportunity to explore and familiarise themselves with the new tech also goes a long way, according to WEF.

Demonstrations, training, support videos and even allowing them to take the devices home are just some of the initiatives manufacturers can employ to help workers be more confident handling the new technologies.

As the end-users, workers could also give helpful insights in assessing the risks and evaluating the effectiveness of the newly introduced tech, according to the study.

WEF also noted that managers have to guide workers at all stages of tech adoption, ensuring implementation timelines are clear and reasonable, and making sure effective support is available at all times to aid workers struggling with the tech.

After the introduction, workers were found to be open to providing feedback about the effectiveness as well as problems of the new system. All-hands meetings, follow-ups and online forms are some of the suggested methods to gather feedback from employees.

Acknowledging the contribution of the workers and rewarding excellent performance will also help keep employee morale up.

Central to an overall successful adoption is the continuity in utilising the technology. Having unsolved technical issues is one of the main reasons technologies are from the shop floor even though they are only adopted fairly recently.

Supervisors can either coach or have one-to-one conversations to encourage workers to continue using the technology.

Moving forward, WEF said management and workers can work hand in hand in exploring new use cases for the installed technologies. It found that almost all interviewees talked about potential new use cases, new systems that could be applied, as well as points for improvement.

“To achieve successful technology implementation and adoption – and thrive in the rapidly evolving manufacturing industry – organizations will have to consider employees’ needs beyond augmentation technology and use these insights to develop sound workers’ transformation frameworks,” it concluded.

The study was based on over 85 interviews with frontline workers such as operators, mechanics, electricians, manufacturing engineers and supervisors in large companies across Asia, Europe and the US.

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