(From the LinkedIn Page of CIS Workforce Readiness Specialist Tim Waldo)
At the Southern Automotive Conference this year, there was a great deal of talk about how technology is rapidly changing the way manufacturers communicate not only at the factory level but also throughout their supply chain. The impressive gains from this new connectivity include multiple opportunities for cost reductions, greatly improved productivity, less down time for maintenance, improved quality control and information gathering. As industry blazes the trail toward the connected enterprise, the workforce development (WfD) system that supports these manufacturers might profit from a serious study of the benefits of improving connectivity.
According to Industryweek.com (Andreas Heinzelman of Igentics talks Industry 4.0, Southern Automotive Alliance magazine, Fall 2017), the Connected Enterprise enables more visibility, faster decision making and new collaboration. Some know this as Industry 4.0. Andreas Heinzelman of Igenics Corporation says, “Industry 4.0 describes the image of intelligent information technology that connects each of the individual players within a value creation network.” For the layperson, Wikipedia explains that the connections are made through the Internet of things (IoT); a network of physical devices, vehicles, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity, which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
Connected may mean something slightly different in the world of workforce development systems. Instead of electronics, sensors and actuators used in the connected factory, WfD practitioners could use tools like shared databases, embedded staff, linked communications and hybrid funding models.
Improved links between WfD organizations would result in a much clearer understanding of all WfD assets available – leading to better deployment of resources, shared best practices, increased opportunities for partnering, etc. Tracking results in shared databases would increase levels of accountability and identify areas where increased support might be needed.
One important shared connection that would benefit all parties would be a common software system for data collection and tracking. Instead of a hodge-podge of packages, the WfD system could agree to adopt one universally accepted package that, at the very least, begins to track common metrics and brings broader access to all WfD participants. Can you imagine how a more robust data analysis capability could improve the system’s performance? At its best, a common software package would allow WfD practitioners to track the progress of the workers they assist. Workers could take training courses and participate in development activities from multiple entities, and everyone could see how they are progressing and where their developing skill set might be leading them.
A more integrated workforce development system might lead to restructured funding models allowing WfD practitioners to more effectively address the needs of manufacturers in specific sectors and regions by eliminating unnecessary and wasteful duplications.
Communication systems and procedures would be instantaneous, clear and consistent; including all WfD partners with feedback loops to industry and employers. Then there’s the ability to identify trends, gaps and opportunities with more precision and speed.
Manufacturing is a very complex process requiring a great deal of coordination, monitoring and adjustment to variation; workforce development is much the same. And, although much has changed within the WfD system, continuous improvement and innovation is the only way the WfD system will be able to keep up with the demands of industry. It is a very exciting time to be involved in developing the future talent our US manufacturers will need. It is also very exciting to think about the many ways we could improve our processes if all workforce development players were better connected, exchanging information, reacting together instead of separately to support these factories of the future.