We can hear you think: “What? Another blog about industry 4.0? Hasn’t everything been written and said? You already know about the importance for industrial companies to enter this new industrial era, don’t you?
You’re right, the internet is already filled with a lot of wise words about it.
So, why write yet another blog?
Because, although your technician has a very important role in it, he is often forgotten in the industry 4.0 implementation process. Most modern and progressive managers nowadays understand the need to make the strategic decision towards digitization of their processes. Those managers are convinced that having every piece of information readily digitally available creates a huge added value. Thus, a smart connected plant supports them in making smart decisions. It might give you the idea that managers are ready for industry 4.0. They have got digital tools. 3D, CAD software, asset management databases, remote sensor data, job order databases, resource planning software to name a few. Dashboards help them to manage the field.
None of these tools reaches full efficiency if the field technicians input is analog.
So, is your field technician ready to enter the Industry 4.0 era? Is he aware of the added value of ‘being digital’? Does he feel as if a smartphone, tablet or smart glasses can influence his daily tasks in a good way?
The answer to the questions above is 3 times NO. But then why?
Firstly, there is no sense of urgency for him. He has been doing the job for years as he is doing it now. And it works fine! That is a classic pitfall. ”Why would we need to change, it has been going great for years now”.
Secondly, he fears new emerging technologies followed by sentences or non-expressed thoughts as “I don’t know how to use this, it’s too difficult. They will laugh at my clumsiness”, “I’m not going to use this expensive device, I will definitely break it” or even “Big Brother is watching me”.
And Thirdly, there is no incentive for the technician to work digitally if the only purpose is to provide digital input for the management system. Sure, with that input the manager can adapt the process and gain efficiency. And that continuous top down improvement, perhaps even the reduced stress level has got influence on the technician, but that is indirect. And honestly, is this perceived by the technician as a real added value?
What can we do about it?
Quite simple. We need to develop digital solutions which make the life of the technicians easier.
We have to make them feel the direct and immediate benefits of these digital Industry 4.0 solutions. It is as easily said as done. It’s a matter of focus.
As a vendor, you will sell more easily to a specific decision maker (cfr. manager) when you sell a (digital) product that makes his life easier. That’s why a lot of digital solutions are focusing on the management level. In the current digitization process, we need digital solutions where technicians are the primary users. And even more important, those who benefit directly from the use of the solution. Gaining insight in the daily life and the worries and sorrows of a technician is therefore crucial. With those insights vendors can develop digital solutions with direct and immediate impact for the technician.
4 lessons we have learned while developing our Augmented Support Solution.
At first, the core issue of this blog. The technician often is forgotten in the process of developing, buying, implementing and/or integrating a digital solution. Although he will be the one that eventually will use it, no one considered his insights, motivation, suggestions.
Second lesson learned, the average field technician today is non-digital. Future digital solutions need to have an above average focus on usability and user experience. Solutions demand to be self-explaining.
Third lesson learned, possessing some basic change management skills makes the implementation process easier. The “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way”-reflex is persistent. Human nature will pop up now and again, it resists change by nature. Perseverance will be necessary to tip them over the point of regular use, until they acknowledge the added value of using a digital solution in their daily task execution.
And finally, when your technicians are not willing to use a digital solution. Do not think they are trying to sabotage it or they are just stubborn old fools. Most likely they just fear change and the fast evolution and adoption of emerging technologies is the reason.
If they resist working with the solution because of the low involvement during the implementation and integration process, management is to blame.
We know one thing for sure. Field technicians will cooperate with digitization if it makes their job easier. And after all, a happy technician is a happy manager.