Metals manufacturers, and the manufacturing industry nationwide, are experiencing a severe lack of qualified personnel to perform critical functions. This problem is exacerbated by the new workforce regulations associated with COVID-19. CBT is working with a Houston-based global Metals Manufacturing Subsidiary (MMS) to deliver Connected Worker as a Service (CWaaS) to improve information and resource delivery, training procedures, and to rapidly upskill new and inexperienced employees.
Metals manufacturers have experienced a loss of tribal knowledge due to a generation of seasoned employees retiring. Due to inefficient, outdated training procedures and lack of resources, manufacturers have no effective way to capture and transfer that tribal knowledge to new hires. When an experienced employee retires, decades of hard-earned experience and job-specific skills are lost.
Couple this phenomenon with a lack of interest in blue-collar labor from younger professionals and you can see why the manufacturing industry is struggling to maintain an efficient and productive workforce.
COVID-19 has compounded the industry’s labor shortage because manufacturers have been forced to reduce their onsite workforce to create social distancing. Since most of their workers perform critical on-site functions in dense workplace environments, such as factories, a significant amount of production is lost when the number of employees is restricted. Fewer workers are asked to cover the functions of a great many of their missing colleagues.
Manufacturers are also expected to maintain pre-pandemic production levels even with these reduced resources. Therefore, there is a dire need for solutions that enable efficient ways to boost the on-site team’s productivity with remote resources, such as remote expert guidance and remote training to stretch fewer expert resources across many more projects.
These challenges are all too familiar to one of CBT’s recent customers, a global MMS that manufactures steel products and parts, including fences, nails, wire, and cables. The MMS came to CBT looking to innovate and increase the safety and productivity of its workforce to overcome the restrictions of the pandemic.
COVID-19 was the tipping point for the MMS. They realized they must enter a new era by using industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology to reimagine the factory environment and workforce training, as well as forecasting supply and demand.
The first step in CBT’s engagement with the MMS was to complete a Quickstart: a design-thinking ideation session used to make quick progress around complex needs. This meeting was led by CBT’s head solution strategist and facilitated through two of CBT’s sales reps, one of which translated the meeting for the MMS’s largely Spanish-speaking team.
Through the empathy-driven approach of the Quickstart, it was revealed the MMS’s use case not only required a Connected Worker solution to enable remote expert and remote training functionalities, but they also required an innovative financial approach to drive the investment from CapEx to OpEx. This critical discovery meant CBT’s CWaaS solution was the best fit to support the MMS’s organizational goals.
The pilot solution includes virtual remote expert guidance, remote training, a digital content repository and resource library, and standardization of processes through digital workflows – all enabled through a head-mounted wearable device. The wearable will be used to enable bi-directional audio and video sharing for remote guidance and remote mentor, as well as voice-activated commands to increase safety while workers perform complex manual tasks. Accompanying integrated software will enable the training content, workflows, resource library, and step-by-step instructions for troubleshooting in real-time.
CWaaS is a great fit for the MMS because it meets their critical organizational needs, is fast to deploy, simple to train for, and fits their financial model. The MMS’s customized CWaaS solution allows them to shift CapEx to OpEx, spreading their solution investment over time.
The pilot solution is expected to deliver an immediate return on investment by vastly increasing the efficiencies of both the MMS’s onsite teams, as well as their remote expert resources. It gives the MMS’s workers the tools they need to assess operations performance so they can make critical decisions safely, in real-time, and at the actual point of work.
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