Industrial software and its versatility has been spurred on to grow for several reasons- Hype for Industry 4.0, changes in the workforce and the need to draw in younger workers, and even the recent pandemic have all pushed several to facilities to focus their efforts on automation, self-sufficient supply chains, tailored-made hardware like industrial PCs, and heavily data-centered decision making.

Mirroring this push for connectivity, some interesting news regarding Parsable, an industrial software provider has come out. In a recent announcement, the company revealed that it had raised $60 million dollars with its partners, bringing its total funding for added functionalities on its software to $133 million.

Why is this important news in the manufacturing industry? Because it illustrates an industry-wide shift in popular thinking that has been taking place gradually for years. What Parsable and the rest of the world of manufacturing, is about to witness quite the influx of investment in Connected Worker Platforms. More specifically, connectivity solutions for front line workers, those who aren’t sitting behind a desk and who operate directly on the factory floor.   

What is the Connected Worker Platform?

Like several popular advancements in manufacturing, the connected worker platform is a data-based solution. More importantly, it is a solution that aims to bring actionable data to front line workers- meaning technicians, factory linesman, and others actually working on the factory floor- so that they can play an active role in optimizing their own workflows and the efficiency of their team as a whole. 

So What?

Sounds like typical Industry 4.0 “manufacturing of the future” speak, does it not? Why is this a shift? Parsable’s CEO, Laurence Whittle, explains it rather succinctly in an interview with Forbes.

He comments, “Silicon Valley for the last 20 years has built software for people to sit behind a desk… 20% of the world sits behind a desk, and 80% does not and most of that 80% does not have software.”

This is the key distinction behind the push for a Connected Worker Platform. Smart manufacturers are beginning to understand that their workforce, the one on the front lines and not behind desks, are being criminally under-utilized. By investing in programs that allow for these workers to be more connected, more educated in the data that runs their plants and factories, they can stand to see marked improvements in their KPIs, quality control, and more.

So, how does your plant prepare for the era of the connected worker? How can the computers, workstations, and portable hardware you equip your front line workers with kickstart this push for data-driven employees?

Industrial Tablets can Improve Worker Retention

The skilled labor shortage has been the bane of manufacturers’ existences for some time. 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 10 years, meaning the industry’s primary workforce is retiring while the younger generation continuously loses interest in factory-based jobs they see as having no future. 

What many manufacturers don’t realize, however, is that the kind of technology and the kind of environment that technology promotes can have a marked impact on how many new employees feel enticed to work on the front line. 

A vast majority of millennials, for example, prefer working in a collaborative environment and over half of them own smart tablets. That said, a solution like an industrial tablet can be installed with software like Parsable’s, allowing for workers to always have data and opportunities to collaborate with fellow front line workers portably. Even better yet, this gives the newer generation a familiar piece of tech with which they can transition into a field they previously thought foreign and unfriendly to them.

Industrial Workstations Aid in Reskilling

As industry evolves, so too will the machines used to run it efficiently. In order to not be outpaced by the advances in new hardware and software, your workforce will also need to be educated and reskilled to keep up. Software like Parsable’s Connected Worker Platform seek to make this easier by granting workers several tools with which they can communicate with their superiors and trainers.

Having the right hardware can help expedite this learning process even further. The same portable tablet solution we mentioned can be loaded with learning materials such as PDFs, video-based instruction, or even applications that allow for workers to communicate real time as a new piece of machinery is operated.

Data Displaying Workstations Boost Supply Chain Visibility

The more eyes you have on your supply chain, the more likely it is that issues such as a faulty product can be spotted and fixed. That said, workstations that allow for front line employees to have access to the data that can tip them off when these issues occur can help immensely on the supply chain visibility front. 

HMI panels are a powerful example of this being put into practice as they allow for workers to communicate with machinery and receive an inside look at their performance metrics. With this data in tow, an assembly worker or anyone else on the floor can observe breakdowns or issues as they occur in real-time. From there, if the right messaging and communication applications are employed at your facility, they can immediately message those who need to be alerted of this issue and nip the problem in the bud before it can grow into a larger one. 

Not only does this make your supply chain more visible by giving many more employees eyes on the inner workings of your facility, it also makes it more resilient by giving each of these employees the ability to stop the problem in its tracks. Think about it, with the right hardware, 100% of your workforce can serve as a stopgap for a disruption whereas before, only the higher ups who were trained in data analysis could have stopped the problem.  

Customized Industrial Hardware Patches up Cybersecurity

Connected worker platforms, by their very nature, require more entry points into your facility’s network. If employees need to be communicating and sharing data virtually, they need to be connected to your network. This can do wonders for productivity and visibility, it also opens several vantage points from which a cybercriminal can launch an attack on your valuable data. 

Fortunately, an industrial all in one pc can be customized with hardware capable of patching these holes in your network. Using identifying hardware such as RFID scanners and CaC readers, these customized workstations can confirm beyond a doubt the identity of all those accessing that workstation and your data. 

Connected Worker Platforms Unify the Entire Team

Connected worker platforms are here and are only growing more potent and functional as time goes on. Preparing your facility and, more importantly, your employees for infrastructures like Parsable’s and improved communication is the best course of action for navigating your supply chain through further milestones in the fourth industrial revolution. For more information on how you can do just that, contact an expert from Cybernet’s team today.