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Rethink manufacturing: Are you ready for the post-COVID worker experience?

  • Posted on March 29, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Rethink manufacturing workplace experience

If you’re like most manufacturers, after a year of the pandemic you’ve been heads-down for so long, dealing with supply chain and workforce disruption, that you could have memorized the creases in your shoes. But with COVID winding down in many regions, it’s past time for you to look up—or lose out to manufacturers who are already preparing their businesses for the post-COVID world.

You can do more than just think and plan about the changes the pandemic has brought to Industry 4.0. Pragmatic solutions are now tried, tested, and being adopted at scale. You can adopt them now, too.

If you’re behind, don’t lose heart. The task is so broad that most manufacturers still have much to do. Avanade sees three transformative challenges facing manufacturers: enhancing the workplace and worker experience, strengthening operational and supply-chain resilience, and creating agile and adaptable enterprises. We discuss these in detail in our new guide, “Solving urgent manufacturing challenges.”

In this blog series, we will introduce each of these three big challenges. First up: the new workplace and worker experience. The hybrid working model is probably the new normal for the foreseeable future—some workers by necessity in the plant or facility, others working from home or partially so. How do you keep your people safe, productive and skilled in this new way of working?

You need solutions that ensure the safe return to physical workspaces even as you enable fully functional remote working. Regardless of where they’re working, your people face a more digital environment than ever before, and they need the tools to be safe and productive in it.

The pandemic has accelerated a host of trends that were gaining momentum even before 2020, and employee expectations are among them. Workers expect consumer-grade applications and services in the workplace. A growing portion—not just millennial workers—expect their employers to adopt and promote sustainability, good corporate citizenship, and digital ethics. A global sustainability report by Nielsen found that 81% of respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment by implementing new technologies. Meeting these employee expectations is increasingly necessary for talent recruitment and retention.

We’re seeing clients succeed most when they focus on one or more of the following scenarios:

  • Protect: Increase employee engagement and productivity by supporting your workers ongoing health and well-being. Use tools including workplace analytics, IoT, Computer Vision and AI to ensure employees are safe, secure and socially distanced.
  • Automate: Engage and reskill workers to maintain successful operations that can quickly scale and adapt to changing needs. Understand how your workforce could be redeployed or restructured to embrace automation platforms.
  • Collaborate: Facilitate on-the-ground communication among employees, customers and partners with workplace collaboration platforms.
  • Commit: Meet employee expectations with a strong, clearly communicated commitment to health, safety, well-being, training, sustainability and social impact.

Getting these workplace challenges right can deliver big payoffs. Manufacturers can achieve 20% to 30% higher productivity and improved collaboration. We’ve seen our clients enhance employee engagement and retention, improve workflow and labor optimization to develop new products and services, create remote and virtual workflows that make distance irrelevant to production, align IT and OT teams to improve ROI and deliver tangible business value, and gain the flexibility to respond to—and even lead—market changes.

For example, when the UK’s National Health Service needed 15,000 ventilators during the early days of the pandemic, experts estimated it would take 20 years of normal production to build them. The consortium of manufacturers used modern collaboration tools—in this case, Microsoft Teams and related technologies—to help get that down to just 12 weeks. That’s amazing under any circumstances, but especially so when you consider the collaboration involved a global consortium of 30 companies and parts suppliers in 22 countries. Some 2,500 engineers were quickly retrained using Microsoft HoloLens and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. And we even used Teams ourselves to maintain a 24/7 support channel to keep everything moving smoothly.

At a different scale, German startup Encory, a joint venture of BMW and ALBA Group, wanted to attract and retain the most talented employees it could find, and empower and engage them to help build an exciting operation from the ground up. It saw an innovative, modern workplace experience as crucial. We helped deliver one with Dynamics 365 and Office 365—which has been part of the company’s ongoing success.

We are helping manufacturers around the world to turn the post-COVID era into one of tremendous opportunity. Maybe you could benefit from our Connected Worker Accelerator, which facilitates employee safety. Maybe Microsoft’s new employee experience solution Viva, is right for you. You can contact us today to discuss the best solutions to address your immediate manufacturing challenges or learn more about manufacturing solutions.

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