How digital transformation ramps productivity: Part two

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Exploring the untapped potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) to help the industrial workplace perform more efficiently and safely.

Co-authored by Mike Dennis and Chiranth Ramaswamy

A large North American producer of fuels and chemicals recently increased their time maintenance and found out that the time construction workers spent in productive work zones increased by 50%. Our team was able to help them with this huge improvement  by equipping technicians with smart watches and deploying worker and equipment tracking with management software.

This is an impressive success story, but not an isolated one. Many sectors, especially mining, energy and utilities, chemicals, and construction, can see notable productivity gains by enabling real-time tracking of equipment and technicians in plant facilities, monitoring time spent on work orders, and ensuring workers have access to the documents and real-time alerts they require.

This blog is the second in a three-part series exploring the untapped potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) to help the industrial workplace perform more efficiently and safely. Part one supplied an overview of the available technology and the benefits that come with the implementation.

This post digs more deeply into the productivity gains IoT delivers. It’s a critical issue, as the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found productivity growth is at its lowest rate since the 1970s.

Updating old processes

Many job sites still manage technicians using very old technology: paper worksheets on a clipboard. Technicians are given their jobs for the shift and if anything changes—a job priority, parts availability or even a safety issue—updates cannot be easily pushed out to them. This leads to more work hours, increases in billing, inflated operational expenses, schedule slippage, and lost revenue.

It is also difficult for supervisors to distribute current or updated information, manuals, and processes to employees; this is especially critical for multi-skilled craftspeople who routinely require detailed information.

Modern systems, by contrast, employ location-aware wearable technology and cloud-based management suites which allow for real-time tracking of workers and equipment in plant facilities, captures and tracks time spent on work orders, provides proximity alerts and notifications, and delivers comprehensive productivity and safety reporting.

Modern worker and equipment management functionality include:

  • Directed work orders: Daily priorities can be updated in real time, as conditions change or in the case of an emergency, and supervisors can push additional instructions or clearances out to technicians

  • Status tracking: Two-way communication and real-time tracking allow technicians to keep supervisors current on completed jobs, holds on repairs, parts requisitions, and information requests

  • Data access and delivery: Technicians on site often need access to additional documents, manuals, product updates, schematics, and maintenance histories. Accessing these no longer requires a trip back to the site office

  • Real-time and aggregated reporting: Supervisors receive automated tracking reports on delays, issues, and productivity numbers, for the site and individual technicians. This operates on the macro level—worker time on site, percentage of jobs completed—and on more granular issues such as whether the routes contractors take within a large site are optimized for efficiency.

Modern worker and equipment management systems deliver on two basic productivity priorities. One, they remove all the “noise”— the travel, the permitting, the materials, the long setup times—and deliver real-world, measurable improvements in efficiency. Second, they give supervisors real-time and aggregated reports of these improvements, so companies can manage and then fine-tune productivity initiatives.

The other big advantage of these systems is in the area of safety. We will cover the topic in part three of this series.

To learn more, connect with Mike Dennis and Chiranth Ramaswamy on social media or read our whitepaper on safety and productivity.

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