Technology has fundamentally transformed how we do business, but until recently, that transformation has been largely focused on the 10% of workers in the front office.

Increasingly sophisticated tools help automate sales, marketing, finance, and big data analytics, but while industrial automation has had a sweeping impact on the front line, it hasn’t leveraged the greatest opportunities offered by technology.

That is changing. Industry 4.0 encompasses a sweeping array of new technologies that utilize constant connectivity in IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and personal mobile devices to cut down barriers between departments, improve communication, and eliminate dated paper-based processes.

By 2020, Pricewaterhouse Cooper estimates the auto industry alone will have reduced costs by $28 billion with Industry 4.0 technologies. Symantec reports an estimated 2.6% annual reduction in inventory levels. And Accenture reports a 30% increase in productivity from early adopters of IIoT and industry 4.0 tools. Simply put, the technology saves companies money.

Let’s take a closer look at how these Industry 4.0 technologies are impacting deskless workers on the front line and how you can leverage similar benefits in your organization.

Eliminating the Hidden Factory to Improve Quality

With traditional paper checklists, many organizations develop a “hidden factory” of patches, hot-fixes, and secondhand knowledge passed between front line workers. When something doesn’t quite work, a workaround is implemented that, while temporarily effective, undermines standard work and potentially endangers quality. If work processes are not documented, they are impossible to track and manage.

Industry 4.0 technology helps deskless workers stay connected with the rest of an organization to avoid this happening. This includes:

  • Eliminating paper checklists using smartphones, tablets, and desktop devices to build a single-source of truth for work instructions and checklists.
  • Implementing real-time data collection that helps identify issues and implement solutions faster.
  • Providing e-training solutions that reduce the risk of hidden factory development and ensure all employees are on the same page.

Reducing Waste and Improving Efficiency

The current economic climate has all-sizes of manufacturing companies looking for ways to trim that fat and improve efficiency. Lean technology solutions are making this possible by streamlining key activities and communications between management and the front line.

By eliminating paper and implementing an all-digital process that uses existing devices instead of installing expensive new units, companies are able to quickly facilitate change that has a bottom-line impact. ROI can be realized in just a few days as a result.

Improving Training and Job Pairing

Front line workers are only as good as the training they receive. Unfortunately, in many situations, the quality of training is inconsistent not just in separate plants, but across departmental silos and even shifts. When you rely solely on paper training manuals and human trainers, the quality will vary wildly.

With digital training tools, companies are able to:

  • Close communication gaps and ensure all employees have access to all sources of knowledge throughout an organization at any time.
  • Enhance job pairings to get the right people in the right places at the right time.
  • More efficiently rotate people through work stations and train them across disciplines, ensuring a better distribution of knowledge.
  • Improve efficiency in creating and distributing work instructions to the front line.

Improving Traceability and Eliminating Errors

Paper-based processes and manual systems can not only reduce efficiency; they can lead to significant errors that cost companies money. When several documents are out of date and there is no central system to manage data, it’s easy to lose checklists and order documentation, leading to costly errors.

To avoid this, companies are implementing lean industry 4.0 solutions that:

  • Improve traceability of documentation for production, shipping, and audits.
  • Introducing urgent live updates to documents that instantly propagate to all devices in the organization.
  • Significantly reducing the time it takes to audit data and answer common queries.

The Future of Better Frontline Work is Now

Industry 4.0 can seem like a daunting endeavor – a multi-month implementation with pilot after pilot. In truth, companies are realizing significant ROI of 7x or higher in just a few weeks by utilizing lean tools that integrate with the systems and devices they already have.

Learn more about how these technologies are enabling a transformational shift in the way business is done on the industrial front line in our eBook, How to Capture Savings Fast with the Right Lean Technology.

Download the eBook