Who Is a Connected Worker?
Chances are, you’ve heard one of these terms before: connected factory, connected workplace, connected worker. But what do any of these really mean?
Over the past few years, the world has seen rapid changes in how we communicate. The adoption of smartphones and technology has altered everything from how we talk to our loved ones to the real-time speed at which we can access news.
The maintenance industry has been included in these advances and has seen gradual but consistent adoption of technological solutions. Where once teams relied exclusively on paper-based systems to run their operations, many solutions have entered the marketplace, allowing teams to optimize operations through mobile devices. One of the advantages across industries is the potential for workplaces to become connected.
Who Is a Connected Worker?
A connected worker is any worker connected to, or integrated with, their working environment via technology. The “working environment” here is crucial. The concept refers specifically to workers whose working lives are undergoing or have undergone some form of digital transformation. Workers who use technology in their personal lives but are not similarly connected through technology to work environments would not fall under this description.
Another important term here is “connected,” or connection. Many workers use all kinds of digital technologies in their daily activities. However, the connected worker makes use of connective digital tools. This means management has integrated the activities of a worker within the larger work environment, sharing information and real-time data across a team or organization and getting feedback in real time.
Examples of Connected Workers
A maintenance technician works on a team, executing preventive maintenance monthly. He’s responsible for one element of the maintenance operation and relies on work orders and checklists to know his specific schedule.
The connected worker can access dashboards and interfaces by using technologies like Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) that allows them to see the digital procedures for the entire process.
If this CMMS comes in a mobile app—and better yet, was built native mobile-first—the connected worker can view the procedure in real time right from their mobile device.
Let’s consider another use case not directly about frontline workers.
Imagine a manager who doesn’t work on the shop floor. Instead of heading to the factory floor to give instructions in person, a connected team lead who wants to assign duties can simply digitize the process.
Also, he might use connected worker solutions to communicate instructions. This kind of work order automation is a good example of a connected worker at play.
Or, the connected worker might check parts inventory from the repair site, knowing that supply chain disruptions have left some parts in short supply.
The Connected Worker and Maintenance: Advantages
If asked to choose between a connected workplace or connected workforce and an unconnected one, chances are you’d go with the former. You don’t even need to know much about what those terms mean in practice. The benefits are self evident.
However, it’s worth taking a closer look at the advantages of a connected workplace, especially when it comes to maintenance operations.
When workers are connected, management can easily automate various systems. Maintenance operations are a critical example. Automating your routine maintenance processes helps minimize your downtime by reducing breakdowns.
In addition, when unplanned breakdowns occur, connected workers can easily communicate and coordinate reactive maintenance. A fundamental element of a connected workplace is access to data. Over time, gathering data will help you plan predictive maintenance.
Reduce Human Error
Connected worker platforms store necessary information for workers. In addition to automating work orders and streamlining workflows, teams can store maintenance procedures. Allowing staff access to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) keeps everyone on the same page in real time and increases efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, digital connection reduces the chances of mistakes as staff follows clear procedural steps.
Improve Compliance and Worker Safety
Regardless of your industry, chances are you have compliance regulations to follow. Worker safety is critical in all fields. Creating a connected workplace through direct communication helps keep workers safe and helps you meet your compliance regulations.
This also goes both ways, as staff can quickly report safety issues if your CMMS has in-app chat functionality. (HINT: MaintainX is the only CMMS on the market with in-app chat.)
One of the best things to come out of a connected ecosystem is real time access to data. Teams with continuous improvement as one of their principles benefit from a data-driven approach. You can conduct audits, see what’s working and what’s not, and retool to eliminate waste. Management can apply these improvement initiatives to maintenance as well as production processes.
Connecting Workers with a CMMS
These days, management can use various technologies to facilitate a connected work environment. For example, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms link back-end systems with shop-floor processes. Other Internet of Things (IoT) devices like sensors and meters are attached to equipment.
For example, meter-based maintenance relies on equipment-usage variables. Therefore, any equipment that needs usage-based maintenance will come with a meter and/or counter to assess hours running, production milestones, temperature, vibration, etc.
A well-designed CMMS gives unprecedented access to and control over your connected workspace. For example, you can set MaintainX to respond to asset condition-based triggers. In addition, the software can pull real-time, machine-condition data and automatically create preventive maintenance work orders.
MaintainX allows for powerful integrations and connects to a range of software for even greater workflow optimization. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions and MaintainX can seamlessly share data to create a truly connected workforce, from owners and managers to technicians on the factory floor.