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Mike Brandt


Industry 4.0 Insight

Why workforce management should be your No. 1 focus

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 12:03

At the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are two critical words you will see in almost every article and write-up where Industry 4.0 is mentioned. Those two words are “digital” and “smart,” and they represent a complete shift in enablement and employee productivity in the modern manufacturing world.

Access to people, facilities, equipment, lines, logistics, and capacity are now a must to stay efficient and competitive. The days of massive unproductive labor cost, overtime, and underutilized manufacturing lines are gone, along with many of the companies that refuse to adapt with the times—just look at the shift in the Fortune 500 over the past decade.

Why is workforce management so important?

Think about this. What system in your enterprise do employees interact with every day, and in most cases, multiple times per day? It likely is not your enterprise resource planning (ERP), payroll, or human resource system, and it is not talent either. Here are the facts: every shift worker on the manufacturing floor uses a time clock, a kiosk, a browser, or a mobile phone to clock in, take breaks or lunch, view schedules, request personal time off, and track time against a work order. Employees do this, or they do not get paid—we all like to get paid, therefore engagement is natural. Further, the millennial worker values acknowledgment of their contributions, which can be recorded visually through the system.

What should manufacturers do with this opportunity?

Workforce management is no longer just about tracking time. With the advancement of workforce management clocks, kiosks, and platforms, it is the single best communication tool in a company’s arsenal. Companies can connect shop floor data, asset data, employee performance data, quality data, and virtually any other part of the organization. In the digital age, employees better consume and act on information that is provided in real time. These are the best areas to focus on:
• Proactive communication: Push data, direction, and trends while there is still an opportunity to correct the future course. Whether it is a simple alert to avoid overtime or communicating shop floor productivity in real-time, you want employees and managers to know that cost can be avoided, and throughput improved with a modern strategy for workforce management.
• Relevant information: It is increasingly important to keep interactions with any business system as relevant as possible. Due to its frequency, keeping data specific to roles and jobs in the workforce management function is critical. If data is relevant to how production volume and quality is measured, and how they contribute to the broader goals of the company—not to mention how they are rewarded and paid—employees will be inherently more engaged in the overall process.
• Naturally consumable: How many times have you logged into an application and gotten confused about where to go? Applications not only have to be proactive and provide relevant information, but employees must easily understand what they are seeing and how to interact with it. Ease-of-use is critical and the format in which data is delivered must be familiar.
• Connect beyond time and attendance: Many organizations are using legacy time-and-attendance solutions that are not connected to other strategic workforce management components or to complementary business solutions within their own organizations, e.g., ERP or manufacturing execution system. To achieve employee engagement, manufacturers need to collapse workload, labor standards, and scheduling with timekeeping, as well as with materials and machine data, supply chain, and CRM information. Take advantage of a captive audience and provide information from every part of the business. If your workforce management platform is not connected in a digital format and with more than just timekeeping information, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

What about the “smart” part?

Simply put, a smart factory is a factory that communicates every aspect of the business through system-to-system communication and by pushing actionable data to employees that is relevant to their ability to act. Employees act differently when given the right information. It is no different than a traffic signal. When you reach a red light, you stop, when you see a green light, you go. Employees empowered with the right information and data will make smart decisions almost 100 percent of the time. Supporting the smart factory starts with communication and smart data.

Imagine just a few of the possibilities:
Your workforce management platform prevents employees from being scheduled for a line that is needing maintenance or when there are not enough parts to complete the work.
An employee that is missing a necessary certification or that needs a recertification is notified prior to being scheduled for a shift.
Before an employee goes into overtime, the manager is notified that they need to find an alternative resource.
A workforce management platform that communicates factory floor efficiency in real-time to the executive team, management team, and most importantly, to the employee.
Beyond workforce management, imagine all your business applications working together. Your CRM notifies your workforce management, recruiting, and training systems of a pending sale so that the factory knows in advance and can staff and train for the upcoming work.

There is no part of the factory floor that cannot be connected in some way to other facility activities. Making reliable, actionable information available to the workforce leads to a smarter decision-making process.

A truly digital workforce will have access to relevant and contextual information that takes them well beyond recording time or coming to work based on a predetermined schedule. Today’s employee demands access to every data point in their world, at the exact moment it is needed any given day. This is the definition of a modern and engaged employee. This can also be a legitimate competitive advantage for the manufacturers that properly address the gap. And, because workforce management is such an ingrained part of the employee work-life, it offers a compelling use case for improved engagement.


About The Author

Mike Brandt’s picture

Mike Brandt

Mike Brandt is the director of Workforce Management for Manufacturing at Infor, an enterprise software company focused on business applications for organizations and delivered via cloud computing as a service. Brandt has worked more than 20 years in human resources and HR technology. He loves working with companies looking to grow and develop their workforce.